People have the most interesting relationships with the insect community. For some, the mere mention of a bee can send people into spasms waiving and flailing. The funniest part of the “bee” dance is that it is usually precipitated by a wasp. Insects can be revered, like the endangered honey bee, and reviled, like the mosquito. They can be adored, like the ladybug or firefly or swatted at in disgust, like flies or ants. Ultimately, while all insects look different they all serve a greater purpose in the food chain. So rather than vilify some and celebrate others let's gain some perspective on the importance of the feared and misunderstood.
Insects share long and storied history going way back before humans were a blip on the evolutionary radar. There would be no fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, bats, et. al. if not for those yummy little snack treats they feed on. Bees are pollinators and they produce honey. While these two attributes are enough to win the “Best Insect Ever” award they also have the ability to sting. Bumble bees are notorious for stinging with the least provocation and honey bees have the barbed stinger, so once used, the bee dies so they take a bit more provocation. For more detailed information on bees check out this website, http://pestworldforkids.org/pest-guide/bees/, good basic info and pictures.
Wasps are part of a very large family. Their food sources range from nectar to other insects to picnic leftovers. There are good guys in this family of insects who control other insect populations discretely and a few stray cats that have a more notorious reputation. These venomous wasps, nicknamed yellow jackets, set up their habitats in places where their worlds can more easily collide with humans; the lawns they mow, the bushes they prune, the furniture they like to party on. It is this proximity where the human-wasp worlds collide and percentages increase toward the end of the summer when wasps become more aggressive. But when the focus is on the good guys of the wasp family their “street cred” increases.
I was sitting on my back patio the other morning. It had rained and the container gardens were shimmering with droplets, which caught my eye. Then I noticed all of the activity swarming in and around these container gardens. The bumble bees were systematically making their way around the pink Salvia. There were wasps on the Celosia, butterflies and moths were working their ways around each blossom and around each other and there were spiders weaving their webs. It sort of took me by surprise to be sitting so close to all of this activity, no one was bothering me, and each insect was working independently of the other all systematically searching for scraps of pollen and nectar to feed their hoards and keep their communities thriving. It was the orderliness of the scene that struck me like the daily machinations of human society going about their business. Insects have a purpose and it is not always one that we see first hand. It is best if we avoid interfering with those routines outside of providing habitat for them to live off of.
Bugs are not on the attack. They are just going through the motions and if one lands on you or buzzes about your hair it is by accident as they go on their way to find food. The mosquito, being a blood sucker, is the exception but the mosquito is the example that should be followed for humans to look for ways to reduce conflict with them. There are many Fact Sheets on the mosquitoes to help homeowners locate possible breeding sites around their yard and, at least, reduce the population in their immediate area. For more information on mosquito control check out the State of Maryland the link to their Mosquito Control program, http://mda.maryland.gov and click on Mosquito. While this may not be the state you live in the fact sheet is comprehensive. Mosquito Control programs in other states may be organized a bit differently and found by Google searching.
Ultimately, we need insects more than they need us. They keep the world of the teeny-tiny under control and they both provide and make food sources in the food chain. If the teeny-tiny's world is one you would prefer to have limited contact with, then removing their food sources and water access from those areas is a beginning. Finding a fact sheet for each of the bothersome insects will help identify the food sources. Researching all of the insects you see can also be helpful in identifying if they are friendly or not. If you should see a dragon fly, know they actually eat mosquitoes, so they are good to have in the yard which makes them less annoying and in someway their presence is more comforting knowing the checks and balances are in place.
The saying with bees and wasps is when you see them, “Just turn and calmly walk away”. Unless you stick your hand right by their nest, they have no reason to consider you a threat. It is good to go looking for wasps during the season to identify any that have made their nests in your lawn, around the eaves of your house, in your shrubs or around your deck or deck furniture. I walk around with a can of wasp spray, periodically and merely tap on things to see of wasps fly out. I have used the urethane foam to fill fence rails and holes in my house to block their access and prevent them from building a nest inside. I check for wasps before moving things around outside just to make sure a nest is not hiding somewhere close. I expect them to be close so I am not surprised when they surface and I am also prepared when they do with a strategy I am comfortable with. I am not allergic to their venom but I am not immune. It is helpful to learn their habits, habitats, and food sources to know when caution is warranted.