Catskill Mtns – Bees

Bumble bees are the largest bees in the Catskill Mountains. Much of the size comes from their fuzzy hair. They can be a number of different colors. Most are black with bright yellow strips around their body. But, some have orange, while, pink red, or orange colors. Their fuzzy hair often becomes electrostatically charged when they fly. When they land on flowers, which are grounded, the pollen is attracted to them. If pollen is on their body, it can be attracked to the flower stem. They are very effective pollenators. The fuzzy hair also insulates them. Therefore, you will often find them at higher elevations. They can often be found on Catskill Mountain summits where there are flowers. They do occur at lower levels. Bumble bees do not have ears, but can sense vibrations. In spite of being very hairy, they can fly very fast. They can fly up to 30 mph. They beat their wings up to 200 beats per second. They have the fastest wing beat of all bees. Instead of contracting their muscles to beat their wings, they vibrate their muscles to beat their wings. When it is cold, they have a hard time getting their muscles to vibrate so that they can fly. In cold weather, you can often see them walking on the ground, and it appears that they cannot fly. They can also shiver to generate enough heat to enable themsleves to fly. The buzzing you hear is not the beating of the wings, but the vibration of their muscles. Bumble bees can live up to 1 year old. Often the oldest living bumble bees are the queen.

Bumble bees are very mild in temperment. They will rarely sting people. If you endanger their nest, step on them, or harm them, they will sting you. But normally, they are almost as calm as honey bees. Bubble bees can sting multiple times, and do not die after stinging someone.

Bumble bees often live in small colony nest up to 50 bees. they most often nest in tunnels in the ground. They do not make the tunnels themselves, but use tunnels made by rodents or snakes. They can also make their nest directly on the ground, often in the grass. they have also been known to nest in the side or base of homes. After summer, all the bumble bees die, except for the queen, who will start a new colony the following Spring. Come Spring, she will collect nectar and create more bees. Bumble bee hive provide a poor source of honey. It is dilute and watery. Bumble fees will visit flower patches up to 1 mile away. They are also habitual and will visit the same flower patch over-and-over until the nectar runs out or other sources become a better opportunity.

In the United States there are two major species of Honey Bees. The most common are European Honey Bees. The second type is African Honey Bees or better known as Killer Bees. Killer bees are very aggessive and dangerous. Fortunately there are NO African Honey Bees in New York. They only exist in the southern most states of the United States.

Honey bees are the primary source of honey and used as pollenation of crops by farms. White bee hives you see near farms are for Honey Bees. Honey bees live an average of 6 weeks, and can survive in the Winter for 4 months.

Honey bees are very mild in temperment. They will rarely sting people. If you endanger their nest, step on them, or harm them, they will sting you. But normally, they are almost as calm as honey bees. Honey bees can only sting once, and die after stinging someone. Therefore, they are reluctant to sting someone. If you find hundreds of them on a bush, you can grab the bush and shake it, and they will all leave without attacking you.

Honey bees live in large colony nest from 10,000 to 80,000 bees. Wild honey bees can have hives up to 20,000 bees, where human managed colonies can have up to 80,000 bees. Honey bees produce 1 pound of honey per 500 bees. They most often nest in tree cavities, houses, and wooden man-made hives. They have also been known to nest in the side or base of homes. When winter comes the bees die except for the queen, who will overwinter. Come Spring, she will collect nectar and create more bees. Honey bee hive provide an excellent source of honey. Bumble bees will visit flower patches up to 1 mile away. They are also habitual and will visit the same flower patch over-and-over until the nectar runs out or other sources become a better opportunity.

QUEEN HONEY BEES: Live from 2-to-8 years. They can lay 1,500 eggs per day. She is larger then other honey bees. Their stinger is different from honey bees, and she can sting multiple times. There is only ONE queen per hive. Her primary purpose is to lay eggs. She can lay up to 1,500 eggs per day.

DRONE HONEY BEES Drone bees are the male bees and their primary purpose are to impregnate the queen. There are approximately 100 per hive. They live approximately 8 weeks. In the Fall they are driven out of the hive and they will die shortly thereafter. They have larger eyes then other honey bees. It is believed that they need larger eyes to find the queen.

WORKER HONEY BEES: Worker bees are sterile females. Their primary purpose is to take care of the nest and provide nectar. They make up 99% of the bees of the hive. They live approximately 6 weeks. If the worker bee is born late in the year, they will live thru the Winter. Young worker bees are called: House Honey Bees and their purpose is the maintain the hive. Duties include comb building, brood rearing, tend to the queen and drones, cleaning the hive, temperature regulation, and defending the hive. Older worker bees are called, Field Honey Bees and their purpose is to obtain nectar, water, and plant material for building the hive. Worker bees can only sting once, and then they die.

Bees have a general forage regions where they will feed on certain types of flowering species. The map shown below was produced by George S. Ayers and Jay R. Harman, of Michigan State University. It comes from Chapter 11 (Bee Forage of North America and the Potential for Planting for Bees) of the book The Hive and the Honey Bee, 1992, Graham, J. ed. Dadant and Sons Inc. Hamilton, Illinois. Family Latin Name Common Name Type Begin Bloom End Bloom Asteraceae Taraxacum Dandelion, blow-balls Flowering February October
Ericaceae Vaccinium Blueberry, huckleberry shrub, deciduous broadleaf February June
Aceraceae Acer maple tree, deciduous broadleaf February June
Fabaceae Vicia Vetch, tare Flowering March October
Rosaceae Malus Apple tree, deciduous broadleaf March May
Salicaceae Salix Willow, osier tree, deciduous broadleaf March June
Rosaceae Prunus Cherry (cultivated) tree, deciduous broadleaf March May
Fabaceae Medicago Vetch, tare Flowering April September
Rosaceae Pyrus Pear crops/cultivated April May
Fabaceae Melilotus Sweet clover (white/yellow) Flowering April October
Fabaceae Trifolium hybridum Alsike clover Flowering April September
Fabaceae Trifolium repens White, dutch clover Flowering April October
Cucurbitaceae Cucurbita L. Pumpkin, squash, gourd crops/cultivated May September
Cucurbitaceae Cucumis melo Cantaloupe, muskmelon, casaba, crops/cultivated May August
Asclepiadaceae Asclepias Milkweed, butterfly flower Flowering May September
Brassicaaceae Barbarea vulgaris Yellow rocket, winter cress Flowering May June
Anacardiaceae Rhus Sumac, sugar bush, lemonade berry Shrub May August
Rosaceae Rhus Raspberry Crop May July
Tiliaceae Tilia Basswood, lime tree, whitewood tree, deciduous broadleaf May July
Cucurbitaceae Cucumis sativus cucumber Crop June September
Asteraceae Aster Aster Flowering June November
Asteraceae Cirsium Thistle Flowering June October
Fabaceae Lotus corniculatus Bird’s foot trefoil Flowering June August
Lythraceae Lythrum salicaria Loosestrife, purple loosestrife Flowering June September
Asteraceae Solidago Goldenrod Flowering July November

There are a number of different species of hornets. The species in the Catskill Mountains are called the Baled Faced Hornet. They are related to Wasp and Yellow jackets. They are slightly larger then a yellow jacket. They are mainly black with some white or yellow markings. They can be quite aggressive around their nest. Hornets are capable of stinging multiple times, and they do not die after stinging a human. Hornets will feed on flowers as well as insects.

They build a nest that has the look of a paper football. In the beginning the size of the nest is only about 1-2 inches in diameter. The nest can grow up to 3 feet tall. But most grow an average of 1 foot tall. The walls of the nest can be up to 2 inches thick. They are strong and will not be destroyed by the rain and wind. The nest can be at ground level, or may be 50 feet up in the tree. They are most often attached to a tree branch. But, they can also be attached to the eves of the roof of a house. Their nest is paper like substance. Some of the nest actually is built from tree bark dust and saliva. Their saliva is very sticky. A hornet colony can hold up to 700 hornets. Most hornets nest are only used for one year. Their nest are can be preyed upon by raccoons, foxes, skunks, and blacks bears.

Queen They are the only fertile female. They are conceived the previous Fall, and start the colony come Spring. They start building a colony and they start laying eggs. The Queens are slightly larger then the other bees.

Workers The workers are infertile females. They do all work except laying eggs.

Drones Drones are males hornets. Their only purpose is to fertilize the Queen. They are the only bee in the nest that do not have stingers. They are born from unfertilized eggs.

New queens Are created in the Fall and overwinter. They will abandon the nest and overwinter in hollow logs or tree stumps. They will start the colony and nest in the Spring and will be the Queen for the following year.

Wasp are different then most bees. They are predators of inspects. They are an organic way of controlling insects in your garden. Many look at them as a nuisance that can sting them. Wasp are know to build nest under the eves of homes. But, they do offer a beneficial effect on the environment. In most cases they are not aggressive like Yellow Jackets or hornets, but if they do sting it can be painful. But, they will defend their nest. When they sting, they can sting repeatively. They do not die after stinging someone like honey bees. If stung by a wasp, they do not leave a stinger in your skin.

Like all bees nest, if you are to remove a nest, you should do it at night. The best way to kill wasp is by using bee spray. If it is late Fall, the bees will die with the cold. The queen will leave and over-winter in another location. If the wasp nest is not near a home or near human activity, you can often leave them alone. If you find a wasp nest in the Winter or early Spring the nest has been abandon and can be removed. Wasp will not reuse a nest.

Yellow-Jackets are also considered wasp. They usually nest underground . You can find them with small holes in the ground. The holes are usually 1-2 inches in diameter. If you watch the hole, you will see bees entering and exiting ever second or two. Large nest can be as large as six feet in diameter. From time-to-time they will build the nest above ground. Yellow-jackets will release pheromones, which alerts the nest. Once the nest is alerts, you can get a dozen or more stings within seconds of the first sting. Once you get stung, you need to leave the area immediately. Walk away quickly, but do not swing your arms or stomp the ground. Yellow-Jackets are the most dangerous bees for multiple stings. A large nest can have up to 15,000 bees. If you get stung twice run away from the nest for several hundred feet. Remove the bees as soon as possible. Yellow-jackets can sting multiple times. In most cases they do not leave a stinger in the victim. They also do not die after stinging a person unless the stinger is ripped from their bodies.

Black bears like to dig up yellow-jacket nest. So, if you dug up dirt and bees flying around the dug area, leave the area immediately. These bees will be extremely aggressive. There are other animals that will dig up bees nest. Black bears prefer honey bees, but very few wild honey bees are left in the Catskill Mountains. Back in the 1800’s Barney Butts of Hensonville cut down over 500 trees with honey bees, and killing the nest. Therefore, 100-200 years later, honey bees still have not recovered. Hornets and Yellow-Jackets have filled the voids of bee territories that were killed by Barney Butts.

Like most bees, Yellow-jackets are most aggressive in late August and September. This is also when their nest is the largest. They will stay with nest until it gets too cold. Then they will all die. The new queen will leave the nest and over-winter in a log pile or under a dead stump. Come Spring she will leave and create a new nest. In rare cases, yellow-jackets will use a nest for a second season. But, this is usually a rare event. When they do reuse a nest, the nest can become exceedingly large. In most cases, the nest will grow to a size of a basketball. But, in multiple-year nest, the nest can be as large as six feet in diameter.

Today, most pest control firms use bee spray (insecticide) to kill yellow-jackets. You must spray it directly in the hole, so that the incecticide hits the nest below ground. But, some people still pour a gallon of diesel fuel in the hole at night and light the nest. Some people also report using soapy water will kill the nest. Another good method is using an old plastic water or soda bottle to create a trap for them. They cut four small holes near the top to allow entrance, but not allowing escape. They put in 3/4 cup of juice, 1 tablespoon of sugar, and 1 teaspoon of cat food. They then hang it from a tree near the nest. Within hours the bottle is full. It is reported that freeze sprays do not work with yellow-jackets. Killing a yellow-jacket nest is dangerous, so make sure you know what you are doing before attempting it. Any attempts to kill a bee nest, should be done at night. Most bees will not fly at night. But, if you are holding a flashlight, they will fly to the flashlight and sting the person holding the flashlight.

Catskill Mtns – Bees