With fall upon us and getting closer to winter, my week was filled with questions about bugs. Bumble bees, honeybees, armyworms, and a potential sighting of the Asian giant hornet are among the questions that I fielded.
The first question was about Bumble bees. Specifially, the question was if they migrated south for the winter.
They do not.
Like many other insects, you’ll find them preparing stores for winter. Fertilized queens survive the winter, select an underground nesting site in the spring and construct a nest in which worker bees are raised. In the fall, all members of the colony die except the fertilized queens.
Nesting sites include clumps of dry grass, old bird nests, abandoned rodent burrows, old mattresses, car cushions or even in or under old, abandoned buildings. Most colonies contain a few hundred bees although thriving colonies can contain up to 2,000 bees.
Bumblebees are important pollinators. Only the females are capable of stinging. They can be aggressive around nesting sites, but they are rarely aggressive during foraging activities. Though rare, there may be problems when their nest is located next to a building or walkway.
A second insect call this week was about honeybees. The caller wanted a beekeeper to remove a honeybee hive from a tree on her neighbor’s property. Removing honeybees from an established hive at this time of the year could be done, but often results in the failure of a hive to survive the winter. Honeybees spend most of the year gathering pollen and nectar (which they turn into honey) to make it through the winter. It is important to note that the honeybees are staying active as long as they can during these last warm days to store up pollen and nectar for the upcoming winter. To upset them now would be almost certain death.
On a side not, the caller asked if a beekeeper could “smoke them out”. “Smoking them out” is common misunderstanding about honeybees. Beekeepers will smoke bees every time they work them, but we do not use smoke it to run them off. Obviously, the last thing we want to do is to run them off their livelihood. Beekeepers use smoke to calm honeybees so that they can more easily attend to their hives.
I am continuing research into the occurrence of armyworms at a hay meadow just east of Lufkin. Since this past summer, I have been trapping the adult armyworm moth and tracking the emergence of the armyworm caterpillar in the field. The traps that I have out are collecting armyworm moths and then I sample the fields for the caterpillars that are so destructive to hay crops and some pastures.
As of this past Wednesday, I still found army worm moths in the traps! I doubt that there will be any problems with the caterpillars eating the Bermuda hay meadow, but it is interesting to note that there still out there.
Lastly, I had a call about a potential Asian giant hornet sighting. The Asian giant hornet is also known is the “Murder Hornet” in some circles.
Rest assured, it was certainly not an Asian giant hornet but some type of wasp that had been killed and beaten to such an extent but only one wing was able to be identified used as identification. I consulted our local entomologist, Joe Pace, and he confirmed that it was absolutely not the dreaded invasive species Hornet and that the closest one is well over two thousand miles away.
With winter just around the corner, be sure and get outside look at the bugs that are still around look at the winter annuals that are germinating and enjoy this cool wonderful fall weather.