We sat down with Austin Hamilton the General Manager of Apex Termite & Pest Control in Greer, South Carolina to discuss flying and stinging insects that are active in the Upstate of South Carolina this time of year.
Austin, tell us about the hornets we are dealing with in South Carolina?
The biggest stinging insect is definitely the yellow jacket. They get misidentified a lot actually. For example, a home inspector just sent me a picture yesterday of a home he was inspecting and commented on these “big wasps” and I told him “no those are yellow jackets.” They are the most aggressive flying and stinging insect in the bee and wasp world. They really hurt when they sting. I would never recommend a homeowner trying a DIY approach to a yellow jacket nest. It’s just too risky.
Why is that Austin?
Typically they burrow in a hole in the ground in yards, near trees and shrubs, and what happens is when they sting you it sends out a pheromone to the rest of the colony/nest and it alerts them that there is a threat to the colony. All of a sudden you are stung by one, but then the rest of the hive responds to the pheromone and someone is stung 12X’s. They swarm at you because they think the colony is being attacked. If you get stung by a yellow jacket your best option is just to run, get as far away from that nest/hole as you can because the whole colony is going to respond and come after you. You really want a professional to take care of this for the sake of your health and your family.
What are other types of hornets or stinging insects you are seeing?
Bites from Japanese/Asian hornets and European hornets can be very painful. Small children and domestic animals can have a dangerous reaction to their stings within minutes. These are larger than typical American hornets. They are gigantic with huge stingers, but for the most part, they are fairly docile if left undisturbed. Like wasps, they are not aggressive unless they or their nest/colony feels threatened. They will sting you if threatened or disturbed. If you push up against them or disturb their habitat they will sting and the descriptions of these stings are notoriously painful. They aren’t indigenous to South Carolina, or natives but they have been here for so long that they are indigenous. Many experts believe they were transported to the U.S. on container ships and because our southern temperatures even through the winter are fairly mild they can thrive and reproduce. Both of these hornets look very similar. They are very large.
Where do they nest?
They are like yellow jackets that can nest in the ground and in trees or shrubs. They will find holes in trees and nest in a tree. All of these are very similar to a termite colony. There is a king and queen in the nest, workers, soldiers, etc. So when you are treating them the goal is to knock out the king and queen because a DIY may knock down soldiers and workers, but if you don’t kill the king and queen they can move onto another location to rebuild and reproduce.
Do they operate like termites in terms of feeding and behavior?
Yes, they are very similar. The workers and even soldiers will carry pollen to the nest to feed the babies and the king and queen. It’s very similar but pollen is the food source instead of cellulose with termites. Frankly, bees in general if they are not bothering you contribute to our world through pollination.
What about wasps?
You will see them under the eaves and near gutters, downspouts, and covered corners. However, they are not very aggressive unless they perceive a threat or their nest is disturbed. For example, painting near them without knowing they are there, or cleaning out gutters can disturb the nest. If they feel any kind of pressure like they are being squished they will sting. If they ever feel their life or the colony is in danger they will sting.
We need our honeybees right?
Yes, they are vital to pollination so don’t kill honeybees. Actually, that is something our company does for free. We will take your honeybees and relocate them to a hive farm behind our shop and help them produce honey and thrive. We love honey bees. Our Pest Control manager owned a bee business for a while so we are very comfortable with relocating honey bees from our customer’s residences to our location without sacrificing the bees and pollination. Hornets are predators of honey bees and 50 hornets can kill a honeybee colony within a few hours. So we want to eliminate hornets but not the honeybees.
As a professional what is your advice for homeowners who want to enjoy their outside space like decks, patios, etc?
Typically in the evening and at dusk bees, hornets and wasps are not active. Now if you are trying to enjoy a cookout before dusk you can use citronella candles/torches and Thermacell products and these do a good job. But in the evening they are dormant. They are pollinating and active during the daytime hours. The best time to treat the aggressive ones (not honeybees) is in the evening hours at sunset. The most common insect we see at dusk that could be annoying is wasps and at that point contact a professional pest control company.
How do you deal with wasps?
You want to locate the next and knock it down from the eave, porch/patio covering and you kill all of them, but you must make sure you knock the stem down. If you don’t knock the stem of the nest down they will simply rebuild.
What about mud daubers?
There is not a lot you can do about them and I don’t even know if I’ve ever heard of anyone getting stung by a mud dauber. They are not aggressive unless you disturb their nest. They typically burrow in the ground or in a garage with tubes of mud. They are very treatable.
How do trained professionals treat a hornet’s nest in the ground?
Basically, you need to make sure you are covered and protected properly and you need the correct product. We use a product called, “Wasp Freeze”. You wait until the hornets are inactive at dusk and you spray the product into the hole of the nest. It freaks them out and they come out to respond to an attack and as they come out of the hole you continue to spray them. So we are trying to fumigate the entire colony so we kill the king and queen so the colony cannot reproduce. Remember, whatever you are treating yourself you want to make sure it’s the right chemical for the right pest.
How many hornets can be inside a colony?
A hornet’s nest has 100-700 workers and most of them are non-breeding females that do all the work and scavenge for food. A large nest can have more than one queen. So you’ve got to have a product that will kill the entire nest which is why we use Wasp Freeze. It’s a proven product. Don’t use gasoline or other flammable products to kill a hornet nest!
What are the most common things parents can do to protect their small children from these stinging pests?
When you have lots of shrubs you want to keep small children away from them during the day when these pests are active. In garden areas and outside the home where there are flowers with lots of pollen just remember these are magnets for pollinating and stinging insects. When you are cutting grass, mulching, stump grinding, etc., and you see hornets contact a professional immediately. Avoid the nest at all costs. I have a 2 ½-year-old and if she got on top of a hornet’s nest without knowing it, it would be really bad. So you want to avoid these kinds of things for your children and yourself!
When you are servicing a house and use those big duster’s it’s not just about spiders right?
When we are sweeping through a homeowner’s residence when we are doing that we are knocking down spiders’ nests but also knocking down wasp nests. You can do this yourself as long as you knock down the wasp nest and the stem. If you don’t knock down the stem you are just giving them a chance to rebuild and reinhabit.
What are you seeing right now in terms of the mosquito population this year?
Right now it’s not abnormal, but there is no stopping them when it gets warm and humid this time of year. Make sure your kids are covered in an all-natural or DEET mosquito repellent and remember to wash it off once they come inside. Citronella and Thermacell products will help, but if you live near a water source they are going to be a constant battle. If they are really bad contact your pest control company about applications to prevent them.
What about fire ants right now in the heat of summer?
The best thing to do is do a total lawn treatment. Typically fire ants respond and produce in the sun and heat. Usually, they are in an open area like if you have an open area in the back yard they thrive in the heat and sun. You may notice after a heavy rain that you may see moe fire-ant mounds in your yard. They are coming to the top to avoid flooding of the colony. So mark the spots and keep the kids and pets away from them and get your yard treated. You’ve got to get to the source of the problem and kill the king and queen.
At Apex Termite and Pest Control, your family’s safety is our number one priority. Don’t let termites, pests, and insects ruin your life! Apex Termite & Pest Control has three generations of experience in termite and the pest control business. We understand wasps, hornets, yellow jackets, and more. We live and work in the Upstate and like you, we want to enjoy our homes in Spring and Summer. We care about our customers and count it a privilege to provide relief so they can enjoy their homes in warmer months. We are in the business of providing peace of mind for homeowners.
Contact us today for more information on termite bonds, treatment, and inspections.