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  #1  
Old 06-21-2009, 09:57 AM
muttrox muttrox is offline
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Are these really bees in my sandbox?

There are more of these every year. They don't ever seem to sting. They don't retaliate or even really react. when I slay their comrades. They appear to dig into the sand, there are small holes the diameter of their bodies. They seem relatively harmless, but are very annoying and scare the kids.


I took some pictures. Here's a shot where you can see them flying around, one sitting, and a close up of that.


Q1: What is it? Is it actually a bee? I gather it could also be wasps or some other kind of bug.
Q2: What's the best way to get rid of them? Answers on the web range from start the sand box over to boric acid to call a professional there's nothing to be done.
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  #2  
Old 06-21-2009, 10:06 AM
Bag of Mostly Water Bag of Mostly Water is offline
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It looks like you have digger wasps. Chemical control methods are stated in the linked article. I wouldn't want to use the recommended insecticides in a sand box where kids play.
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Old 06-21-2009, 10:07 AM
beowulff beowulff is offline
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Leaf cutter bee.
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  #4  
Old 06-21-2009, 10:08 AM
constanze constanze is offline
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IAMNABeeexpert. But given that bees are dying everywhere and have less place to live, could you offer them an alternative place to burrow in, e.g. - once our resident insect doper has shown up and identified them - by placing a piece of wood with pre-bored holes in it (or whatever else these bees like, it differs from kind to kind) and a long handle - onto the sand box, wait until they have all migrated there, then pick up the handles and move them to a place remote enough where they don'T scare the children?
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  #5  
Old 06-21-2009, 11:03 AM
Maastricht Maastricht is offline
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One way to check if your sandbox dweller is a leaf-cutter bee, is to dig up one hole when the owner is away, and check if it is lined with little brown patches of leaf. The inside of the hole should like a thin hollow cigar. Leaf cutter bees use such a lining to support the inside of a hole dug in loose sand. You can see them sometimes flying past, and they will look like a little green dot; that's when they are carrying a cut out part of a leaf. Sometimes you will see a leaf with a tiny neat round hole cut in it, but it usually no more then two holes per plant.

If it is a leaf cutter bee...You know they almost never ever sting, right? They die if they sting, and if they die, no other bee takes care of their six little bee kids that are hatched in that hole. So a leaf-cutter bee will do its utmost to prevent to have to sting anybody.
How about using this opportunity to teach your kids a love for, and knowledge of, bees and related beasties? Watch a bee and a hole together. Go look for the leaf cut-outs in plant. Look them up on the Internet. Teach your kids the difference between stinging bees/wasps and non-stinging kinds that just have borrowed the yellow-black stripes to look bad-ass instead of the harmless wusses they are. It might save your kids life later on, when he's in a car, a yellow&black insect flies in, and instead of panicking, lashing out wildly and crashing the car into a tree, he or she will take one quick look, say to himself "Oh, look, a hoverfly" and drive on peacefully.

A more permanent solution is to make a simple cover for the sandbox. For instance with a simpel wooden frame covered in plastic. That helps also against weeds and cats pooping, so in the end it's much less maintenance.

Then you can make a special little sandbox, at eye level, for your kids to study bees. And while you're at it, hang a piece of wood with holes in it (not in neat rows, that confuses the bees) and a little bundle of reed or bamboo pieces. You'll have yourself a bee hotel.

Last edited by Maastricht; 06-21-2009 at 11:08 AM.. Reason: Bees are cool!
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  #6  
Old 06-21-2009, 11:10 AM
Maastricht Maastricht is offline
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The same holds for solitary wasps, like the digger wasp. Totally harmless creatures, as long as you're not a caterpillar.
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  #7  
Old 06-21-2009, 12:37 PM
muttrox muttrox is offline
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Thanks for the feedback all. I was hoping for a positive ID based on the pix. I will investigate a hole for leaf linings.

Is it safe to say that if I don't find leaves in the holes, that they are probably digger wasps?

I support the nature lessons, but I want to know what I'm dealing with first...
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  #8  
Old 06-21-2009, 02:45 PM
Maastricht Maastricht is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by muttrox View Post
Thanks for the feedback all. I was hoping for a positive ID based on the pix. I will investigate a hole for leaf linings.

Is it safe to say that if I don't find leaves in the holes, that they are probably digger wasps?

I support the nature lessons, but I want to know what I'm dealing with first...
Cool!

We probably would need a better picture to determine that. It could be still another kind. There are many kinds of solitary digging bees and wasps, all with more or less the same lifestyle, all equally harmless. Let us know if you found the leaf lining. To be most safe, check a hole when the bee has just flown out and away. You could even dig it out from the side, carefully, then you wouldn't even disturb the hole unnecesarily.
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  #9  
Old 06-21-2009, 10:40 PM
Serenata67 Serenata67 is offline
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Would these guys live in a garden as well? I had some issues with flying bee-like insects when I was taking the garden weasel to my garden at my new house. Would these live in soil as opposed to something less nutrient rich like sand/dead wood?
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Old 06-21-2009, 11:23 PM
Maastricht Maastricht is offline
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It's possible. They need open soil, but any soil without vegetation will do, and they will also burrow in barren earth, for instance, below a lean-to or under a porch, if they have to. Bees of any kind like gardens; lots of different flowers and everything is lush because it gets watered.
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  #11  
Old 06-22-2009, 11:36 AM
dracoi dracoi is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by constanze View Post
IAMNABeeexpert. But given that bees are dying everywhere and have less place to live, could you offer them an alternative place to burrow in, e.g. - once our resident insect doper has shown up and identified them - by placing a piece of wood with pre-bored holes in it (or whatever else these bees like, it differs from kind to kind) and a long handle - onto the sand box, wait until they have all migrated there, then pick up the handles and move them to a place remote enough where they don'T scare the children?
This is one of those cases that illustrates why people really need to learn that there are bees and wasps and that they are totally different categories of critters. To me, it's like calling your cat a dog because you figure any domesticated house pet is a dog.

The bees that are reported to be dying are honey bees... and the die-off seems to be wildly exaggerated and not exactly a brand-new phenomenon. Honey bees are never solitary and would never consider a sandbox as a home.

One reason it's important to know the difference is to know how to act around them. Honey bees can sting you, but they'd rather not (they only get one shot and they die afterward). I grew up with bee hives in my back yard. Only the Africanized "killer" bees are particularly aggressive, and only when defending their nest. I don't even think the other bee species sting at all.

Wasps, on the other hand, have totally different behaviors and are frequently solitary. They use a different stinging mechanism that does not kill them, so they can sting repeatedly and are a little more aggressive about doing so. (Although, even then, you usually need to provoke them. When I was a counselor at youth camps, I made it very clear that if any kid freaked out, ran around or waved his hands around a wasp, I was going to bite him even if the wasp didn't. We had far fewer stings with the kids assigned to me.) Of course, other posters have pointed out that some wasps can't sting either, and it seems like those non-stinging types are generally the largest and most scary-looking of the bunch.
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  #12  
Old 06-22-2009, 01:40 PM
Maastricht Maastricht is offline
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I just read that linked article about digger wasps. Jesus H christ, what a load of ignorant fear mongering crap. Its thinly veiled purpose is to sell as many toxic sprays as possible, and if it needs to install a deep and irrational fear of nature to sell its measly products, well, all the better.

2) Most like to fly around their "airspace" at different times of the day or season. This may have something to do with mating, air temperature or simply staking territory. Yup. Agressively staking out your territory from right out under you. The nerve. Their behavior is incomprehensible and scary, and not understood at all. Oh, and if you look closely, observe that these pests wear little black and white checkered shawls around their little bug heads, hide their eyes behind bug sunglasses, and speak insect Arabic.


3) Most are not too aggressive,(Ok, I got to give them credit for not wanting to lie outright) but stay clear of them. One never knows if they may be allergic to a certain sting or venom (ooh, venom! that sounds snakey!). Don't let children or pets play around nest sites. Wait...I bet I can think of more things that are not agressive, so I should also stay away from. The mailbox, for instance.

But wait...it gets worse. If I want to be a responsible parent according to this article, and need to keep my kids and pets away from these bugs and their inconspucuous holes (and those could be anywhere!!) that means I can't let my kids or pets in the garden. Period. So that means that my garden, that cost me thousands in landscaping, has become un-usable. Man, these bugs have got to go.
Oh, and allergic? Isn't that where you DIE from a bee or wasp sting? Oh Nooss!!!
Actually, people increasingly confuse being stung, with having an anaphylactic shock. Getting stung by a wasp or bee hurts. For ten minutes or so. And you get a red welt, for two days or so. Then it's over. Big deal.
Anaphylactic shock, now that is a big deal. And about 50 people a year in the US die from an allergy to an insect sing (and that is all insect stings lumped together). For comparison: the number of people dying from tobacco are 435.000. Hell, the number of people dying from toxins is 55.000 a year. And you wanted to fight the danger of bees by spraying the kids' sandbox with a harsh chemical toxin?


4) The first year these pests (cue ominnous music) start to nest in a yard, theyusually go unnoticed. (sneaky little buggers) It is easy to miss a few holes. (oh, my GOd!) Every year this will grow exponentially. Within 3-5 years, expect
to have several thousand!
Yup. As I sit and type this, I'm covered in exponentially multiplying bees. So is all of Europe, that is why we are brown on the map. That will teach us to finally start using those sprays and clean up our act.

I could go on, but you get my point.
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  #13  
Old 06-22-2009, 03:17 PM
Doug Yanega Doug Yanega is offline
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Hi. The photo shows a wasp whose scientific name is Bicyrtes quadrifasciata. This is a beneficial predatory wasp that paralyzes stink bugs and stashes them underground for her larvae to feed on.

They can sting, like most large wasps, but they will not sting unless stepped on or grabbed. They will defend themsleves but are not aggressive. Unless you have children that are likely to step on or grab a flying insect, I wouldn't worry about them.

Peace,
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  #14  
Old 06-24-2009, 04:59 PM
muttrox muttrox is offline
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I dug up a couple holes. They are not very deep (less than 2 inches). I didn't find any leaf linings.

Since there is disagreement about what the bug is, I took a couple more pictures, hoping that it will help.
  • Here is a close up of the bug, in focus!
  • Here is the bug at the entrance to a hole.
  • Here is a closeup of the hole's entrance.

Thanks again for all the help.
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Old 06-24-2009, 05:14 PM
critter42 critter42 is offline
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I would say that's definitely a digger wasp:

Here is another Digger Wasp image for comparison

Last edited by critter42; 06-24-2009 at 05:15 PM.. Reason: missing contraction :)
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  #16  
Old 06-24-2009, 06:17 PM
DSYoungEsq DSYoungEsq is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Doug Yanega View Post
Hi. The photo shows a wasp whose scientific name is Bicyrtes quadrifasciata. This is a beneficial predatory wasp that paralyzes stink bugs and stashes them underground for her larvae to feed on.

They can sting, like most large wasps, but they will not sting unless stepped on or grabbed. They will defend themsleves but are not aggressive. Unless you have children that are likely to step on or grab a flying insect, I wouldn't worry about them.

Peace,
Quote:
Originally Posted by muttrox View Post
I dug up a couple holes. They are not very deep (less than 2 inches). I didn't find any leaf linings.

Since there is disagreement about what the bug is, I took a couple more pictures, hoping that it will help.
  • Here is a close up of the bug, in focus!
  • Here is the bug at the entrance to a hole.
  • Here is a closeup of the hole's entrance.

Thanks again for all the help.
Doug Yanega is our resident entomologist (insect expert). I think you can take his word on what they are as pretty solid.

Last edited by DSYoungEsq; 06-24-2009 at 06:18 PM..
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  #17  
Old 06-25-2009, 12:45 AM
Maastricht Maastricht is offline
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Am I right in assuming that "digger wasp" is not the name for a particular species, but rather a broader category, like "rodents" which could be specified as either "Brown rat" (Rattus rattus) or "Whitetailed antelope squirrel" (Ammospermophilus leucurus). (All the more reason why I thought the article on "digger wasps" was fear mongering crap. Imagine an article about "rodents" in your home, that doesn't make any difference between rats, bunnies and squirrels.)

In that case, what you have here is indeed a digger wasp, and to be more exact, the species Bicyrtes quadrifasciata. So, now that we agree that it isn't a leaf cutter bee, there's no disagreement any longer.

I have to say, those are beautiful wasps. Sleekly designed, built and colored like fast cars.

How old are you kids, OP? Old enough to learn about insects?

Last edited by Maastricht; 06-25-2009 at 12:48 AM..
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  #18  
Old 06-25-2009, 07:04 AM
muttrox muttrox is offline
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Thanks much to everyone. From my googling it appears that digger wasps and sand wasps are not quite the same thing, so I don't think there's complete agreement yet (Perhaps I'm wrong on that). It's close enough at this point, and I really do thank all who have replied.

They really are pretty bugs when you finally see the closeup.

My children are six, three, and one. I would love to teach them more about these bugs if they were somewhere else on the property. Right now there are so many of them that it makes the whole sandbox area unusable.
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Old 07-01-2009, 10:46 AM
constanze constanze is offline
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Originally Posted by dracoi View Post
This is one of those cases that illustrates why people really need to learn that there are bees and wasps and that they are totally different categories of critters. To me, it's like calling your cat a dog because you figure any domesticated house pet is a dog.
Yes, I wasn't using the proper designations. That's because I'm not an expert, as said. I know there are different types of bees, and of wasps, and some other flying insects that simply look scary by imitating them. So I left the identification to the experts. However, the thingie I was thinking off is called a bee hotel. And the experts have repeated that more of them should be put in quiet places in the garden, to give homes to all the different species that have a difficult time finding natural habitats.

Quote:
The bees that are reported to be dying are honey bees... and the die-off seems to be wildly exaggerated and not exactly a brand-new phenomenon. Honey bees are never solitary and would never consider a sandbox as a home.
Again, I wasn't thinking of only the honey bees. Some years ago, during a garden exhibition - before the Colony Collapse scare - they had a special on wild bees and wasps and showed the different hotels for the different species: one made from straw, one from a brick with holes in it, one from wood with holes in it etc. They also explained that honey bees are only a small percentage of the total pollinating insects, and that wild bees and different wasps also help pollinating (and wasps keep other insects down, as they are predators), in an effort to get people less scared of all those bee/wasp stinging insects and more in the mood to put up a bee hotel in an out-of-the-way place in your own garden.

Because allmost all of these wild species are endangered because of lack of habitat to nest and because there's so few flowers/ other food. We are also encouraged to plant "bee feeding flowers" to help the wild species, instead of the generic boring normal stuff. In many cases, if you find a big football-sized paper-mache wasps nest and call the fire brigade to have it removed in Germany, they will tell you to call the animal specialists instead, to find out if it's an endangered species. In which case you aren't allowed to spray poision on it, but the experts come and remove it and put it elsewhere.

Quote:
One reason it's important to know the difference is to know how to act around them. Honey bees can sting you, but they'd rather not (they only get one shot and they die afterward). I grew up with bee hives in my back yard. Only the Africanized "killer" bees are particularly aggressive, and only when defending their nest. I don't even think the other bee species sting at all.
Well, I always forget about the Africanized aggressive bees because they don't occur in Europe.

Last edited by constanze; 07-01-2009 at 10:49 AM..
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Old 07-13-2009, 09:44 AM
muttrox muttrox is offline
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I'm back

1) Is Digger Wasp the same thing as Bicyrtes quadrifasciata, or is one a subset of the other?
2) These bugs are incredibly passive. I've been beating the bloody hell out of them for days now, killing 6 or 12 in a session. None of them have ever stung me back, or even made the slightest move to try. (I even got the six-year old in on it, he's delighted to be killing animals and his Dad lets him. Hope I'm not developing any bad tendencies in him.) Does that behavior contradict the diagnosis?
3) If they are digger wasps, what's the best way to get rid of them? The methods in post #2 seem fairly complex, is there any easier way?
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  #21  
Old 07-13-2009, 10:48 AM
Bricker Bricker is online now
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Originally Posted by Maastricht View Post
One never knows if they may be allergic to a certain sting or venom[/I] (ooh, venom! that sounds snakey!).
What is the correct term for the material injected by a wasp or bee sting?
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  #22  
Old 07-13-2009, 10:58 AM
Maastricht Maastricht is offline
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Bee-venom, bee-sting.

Venom, used without a pre-fix, sounds to me like cyanide or strychnine. Venom is lethal, poisonous. Bee-venom is just painful.

But it's the context of that entire article that is fear mongering. This word -usage is the least problem.

Last edited by Maastricht; 07-13-2009 at 11:00 AM..
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