While many bee species inflict painful stings that may be dangerous to those with an allergy to arthropod venoms, the insects are generally well appreciated by humans due to their natural habit of pollinating agricultural crops and beautiful flowers. However, wasps do not get the same treatment, despite the fact that wasp species also contribute significantly to the world’s agricultural production. In addition to their pollinating behavior, wasps are doubly beneficial due to their habit of preying on and consuming arthropod pests that damage agricultural crops and garden plants. Of course, unlike honey bees, wasps, which includes yellow jackets and hornets, possess smooth stingers that can inflict repeated stings, and they are significantly more aggressive than most bee species. Some bee species do not possess stingers, and even the ones that do are not considered aggressive toward humans, with the exception of a few exotic bee species, such as the invasive Africanized honey bee. Also, the fact that honey bees produce the sweetest tasting natural substance known to man makes the airborne insects hard to dislike, but the group of bees known as sweat bees can become annoying, destructive and even painful during the warmer months.
Sometimes sweat bees can be a nuisance in yards, as their below ground nesting habits cause damage to well-groomed lawns, but perhaps worst of all, sweat bees, much like their common name suggests, gravitate toward humans in order to feed on sweat. Unfortunately, these bees can also inflict a sting that feels like an electric shock, but they prefer to remain docile around humans in order to consume as much salty sweat as they can. Upstate New York is home to several sweat bee species, including the Augochlora sweat bee, the bicolored Agapostemon sweat bee, and many other species. Although sweat bees are not aggressive, and their venom is not as painful as European honey bee venom, most people become frightened when mistaking the relatively docile sweat bees for more dangerous bee species, especially since sweat bees try their best to land on a person’s body in order to lick their perspiration. This close contact can cause the bees to become accidentally crushed, leading to painful stings. Also, swatting at sweat bees will motivate them to sting, and since they form nesting holes in residential lawns, unpleasant encounters with these bees is not uncommon in upstate New York. In addition to creating several unsightly holes in turf-grass, sweat bees also damage and destroy the roots of grass and some plant species.
Have you ever witnessed bees emerging from the ground?