Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Quiz Answers: Wasps and Bees

Here are the answers to yesterdays quiz on wasps and bees. Both insects are most often beneficial to yards and the world - but care is required in each case to avoid painful stings. 

1. The true statement is (b) all yellowjackets are wasps. Yellowjacket wasps are a variety of  "social wasp" often found in southern California.

2. Paper wasps make their nests (d) under the eaves of houses - this is where we most often find paper wasps in the city. In more rural areas their nests may be seen under tree branches or vines - so give yourself credit if you chose (b) in trees.

3. Honey bees are attracted to (a) flowers. If you spot a buzzing insect flying around your picnic table it is probably a wasp.

4. Yellowjackets are attracted to (d) all of the above: soda cans, meat (giving them the common misnomer "meat bees") and other insects - an important part of their diet.

5. Only female bees and wasps can inflict stings because (a) the stinger is a modified egg-laying apparatus. Although it is true that male bees spend most of their time in the hive, and that females are more aggressive, the plain physiological fact is that the stinger is a gender-specific organ.

6. The insect pictured above is a (a) yellowjacket wasp. Note the distinctive markings, narrow waist, and absence of hair (see question 7). The pictured insect is in fact a German yellowjacket queen.

7. Although bees and wasps are often confused, they can be distinguished by the wasp's narrow waist, the bee's thickened hairs, and the distinct markings and coloration of each insect. While honey bees are mustard-colored and black, yellowjackets are usually a brighter yellow - hence the name.

8. Wasps are important to the balance of nature in several ways. They are used in agricultural pest control, as a natural predator for destructive bugs, and they are an important part of the food chain. However, they do not supply foot for other insects, and as far as we know they are not used in drug research. So the correct answer is (a) parasitic wasps are used in agricultural pest control.

We hope you've learned something useful about the flying insects that share space with you here in Southern California. The bottom line is that bees and wasps can inflict painful stings, and should not be allowed to nest on or near homes. They have important roles to play in the ecology, but can pose risks especially to children, pets and the elderly. The best way to eliminate a nest that becomes a threat to your home is to call a licensed professional.


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