Bees and European Wasps

The Difference between Bees and European Wasps

European wasps are approximately 15-25mm in length and have bright yellow and black stripes on their back half with black dots between the stripes down each side of the abdomen. They also have bright yellow legs and have longer, thicker antennae than bees.

European wasps can nest in various locations including walls, ceilings and tree cavities however the most likely place to find a European wasp nest is in the ground. European wasp nests are easily sighted by the constant activity of wasps going to and from the nest and particularly just above the nest. The entrance to the nest however, may be well hidden.

Bees are approximately 15mm in length and display a dull shade of yellow or a golden brown colour and have black stripes around their body. Unlike the European wasp they have black legs.

What to do if you locate a European wasp nest or Bee Hive

European Wasps can present a danger to people if disturbed and may sting. If you locate a wasp nest on Council land you should contact Council’s Public Health Unit by calling on 5624 2411. Council will arrange a pest contractor to visit the site at dusk or in the evening when the wasps are less active to destroy the nest. To assist the pest contractor we ask that you provide clear description of the location of the nest(s) or that

you mark the spot clearly so that the site can be located in the dark. You may also be required to leave a name and contact phone number.

If you locate a European wasp nest on your own land (or other private land) it is the responsibility of the property owner to have the nest removed or destroyed.

If you locate a wasp net on a power pole then you must contact Ausnet Services on 131 799 to remove the nest.

The following information has been taken from the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning website.

Treating European Wasp Nests

If you are not confident about treating a European wasp nest, do not proceed. Only treat nests that are easily accessible and allow a quick and easy retreat. Do not treat the nest yourself if you think you are allergic to wasps, bees or ants. If this is the case then you should contact your local pest controller.

Use only chemicals registered for use against wasps in your state and read all labels before use. All nests should be treated at night when the wasps are less active.

Required Treating Equipment

When carrying out the eradication of a wasp nest it is recommended that the following clothing is used to minimise the risk of wasp stings

  • loose fitting clothing with long sleeves
  • long pants
  • gauntlet style gloves are recommended
  • gumboots
  • a floppy hat or bee veil to cover the body as well as possible to minimise the chances of being stung by the wasps when treating the wasp nest
  • a torch with a red filter or covered with red cellophane will minimise the chance of disturbing the nest when treating the nest. Wasps may be disturbed by artificial light of a torch or lantern.
  • Insecticide dust or spray registered for the destruction of European wasps should be used if undertaking the eradication of the wasps yourself. Products registered for this use may be purchased from hardware stores and supermarkets.

Treating Nests in the Ground or Buildings

Once you have organised your safety equipment and clothing approach the nest quietly, point the insecticide dust down the entrance hole and give several good puffs or shakes. If the nest is disturbed and wasps emerge during treatment, quickly retreat and wait for the wasps to settle down before approaching again.

Insecticide dust is less effective if the ground is wet, if there is excessive wind, or if the dust is washed away by rain or a sprinkler. If this is the case reapplication may be necessary.

After a day or two, activity at the nest should cease. If wasps continue to be active after four or five days, reapply the dust. The hole can be filled in after a few days. There is no need to remove the nest itself, once it has been destroyed.

Treating Exposed Nests

Exposed nests are those where the whole nest structure is visible. These commonly occur in sheds or cupboards, under houses or in roof cavities. They may be treated with an insecticide dust, insecticide spray or pest strip.

Use the precautions and equipment outlined above and do not make any physical contact with the nest. Do not use aerosols or dusts in a confined area as the fumes may be harmful. Again, insectide dust should be use at night. Give several good puffs or shakes on the outer covering and towards the base of the nest where the entrance hole is located and leave the immediate area. Reapply in a few days if necessary.

Bee Swarms and Hives

Bees typically swarm in spring when a queen and part of the honeybee colony leave the parent colony to establish a new hive. After leaving the hive, the swarm will usually settle on a post, tree or shrub while scout bees search for a suitable new home. In most cases the bees will move on within a few days. If you keep away from the swarm they should not present a danger to people.

Eradication of bee nests

There are a number of chemical dusts and sprays available on the market. The method used to eradicate the nest will be determined by how accessible the nest is for treatment.

You can contact the Victorian Apiarist’s Association Bees Help Line on 1902 241 059 (not a free call). Alternatively refer to the local Yellow Pages for an Apiarist in Gippsland. A fee may be charged for the removal of the bees and the cost should be discussed with the beekeeper before engaging their services. Beekeepers will not remove bees from enclosed spaces or cavities such as chimneys, electricity meter boxes, walls of houses, roof spaces or similar inaccessible places.

After eradication, the entrance to the nest site and other nearby holes should be sealed to prevent the entry of other swarms. Honeycomb within the beehive should not be eaten as they may contain chemical residues from the products used to eradicate the nests. Do not attempt to remove any combs until all bee activity has ceased.

Required Treating Equipment for Bees

  • Eradication should be done immediately after dusk or during the night when the bees are less active and not flying.
  • Gloves and protective clothing (eg overalls) should be worn. The head and face should be protected by wearing a veil or mosquito netting placed on a firm hat and tucked into the overalls around the neck.
  • People that have allergies to stings should not attempt to eradicate bees. They should leave this to a licensed pest contractor. Medical treatment may be required by a person who is stung.
  • Insecticides are toxic chemicals. Safety precautions shown on the product label should be carefully observed.
  • The treatment should be directed into the nest; not simply around the nest.
  • Do not seal entrances to bee nests in houses – the bees may force their way through the plaster into the house interior.

Chemical Products Used for Eradication of Bees

There are a number of products registered for the purpose of killing bees. Please read the product label carefully before using. There are generally two methods for the treatment of bee nests; dusting and spraying.

If dusting, the dust should be spread liberally in and around the entrance where the bees land so that the dust is then carried into the nest by incoming bees. In some cases, it may be a necessary to repeat the application to obtain a total kill of bees.

Spraying is suitable for nests exposed in the open ground and for bees in enclosed spaces where the nest is close to the entrance used by the bees. Where the nest is located away from the entrance, the spray may not effectively reach the nest and eradication may fail. In such cases, dusting may be more effective.