Dale K. Pollet, Blanchard, Tobie M.
Springtime is buzzing with insects, and bees are making a big buzz recently, according to an LSU AgCenter expert.
LSU AgCenter entomologist Dr. Dale Pollet says swarms of bees are showing up in backyards and near houses – which presents problems for homeowners.
"It is not recommended, if you don’t know what you are doing, that you fool with bees simply because you could cause a big problem," Pollet said. "You could get yourself and a lot of other people in the area stung by upsetting them."
Swarms can fly into an area for a brief period, a day or two, and then move on. But if a swarm stays longer, homeowners should call a professional beekeeper to safely remove the swarm.
Homeowners concerned about a swarm can contact a county agent in their parish’s LSU AgCenter Extension Office to get names and contact information for beekeepers in their areas. Unfortunately, Pollet says, some areas lack available professional beekeepers, but hobby beekeepers can perform these removal functions.
"If anyone out there is interested in collecting swarms or removing bees from walls, contact the county agent in your parish and let them know you are willing to do that – and how far you are willing to travel."
Bees can be even closer to home than a backyard tree. Swarms can make their way into cracks and crevices in a structure and build a nest in walls.
Pollet stresses that homeowners should not try to kill bees in a wall or structure.
"If you’ve got honey in the wall, it will ferment, and it will rot the wood structure, then you’ve got a bigger problem than just the bees," he explains.
The fermenting honey also can attract other insects and animals.
Again, a professional beekeeper will have to remove the swarm and the comb, which will require opening up the wall, Pollet says. Homeowners can do their part to avoid this sticky situation by checking their homes and sealing cracks and crevices and other potential entry points for bees.
Solitary bees, the little bees you see flying around your yard, are not as alarming as a swarm, and Pollet says there is no reason to treat for them, since they play a beneficial role in nature by pollinating flowers and crops.
"These little bees are not aggressive," the LSU AgCenter expert explains, adding, "Unless you get them caught in your pants or your hair or you catch them in your hand, you are not going to get stung."
Pollet does suggest treating for yellow jackets and bumblebees, since these insects are aggressive. He recommends spraying the nest with a pyrethroid and liquid soap.
Heavy populations of another stinging insect also are showing up in some areas of the state. The buck moth caterpillar is a spiny caterpillar that feeds on oaks and can produce a painful, burning sting if you come in contact with its spines.
If stung, Pollet says to use something basic like Clorox, toothpaste or juice to ease the pain.
"The base neutralizes the amino acid in the venom and allows the burning and stinging sensation to subside," he explains.
Buck moths aren’t the only caterpillars out in full force. Forest tent caterpillars also have "gigantic populations" this year, according to Pollet. You can see hundreds of clusters of them in live oaks and in sweet gum trees. Pollet emphasizes that these caterpillars do not sting.
"Where populations need to be sprayed, they can be treated with Bt, Sevin or Bayer Advanced Garden."Other insects to watch for, according to Pollet, include:
–Aphids, lace bugs and white flies, which can cause problems in the home garden. Pollet says aphids are out on daylilies, roses and other plants. They are sucking insects and can slow the development of blooms or cause leaf drop. Also watch for lace bugs on azaleas and white flies on gardenias. These insects can be controlled with Orthene or horticultural soaps.
–There also are indications that the June bug population will be early and very heavy. These insects can strip trees of their foliage. Applications of Sevin or ultra fine oils in the late afternoon will help to reduce the populations and save the foliage.