Troup extension agent: Dealing with nasty, stinging critters

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 1, 2016

Each week we get calls about what to do about those nasty critters that are active at this time of the year.

You are usually minding your own business doing some outdoor chores when some part of your anatomy gets lit up by a sting. A large welt and lots of sharp pain usually results.

One of these culprits is a ground dwelling insect commonly known as yellow jackets. These half-inch, fast-flying, black and yellow striped insects live in underground colonies numbering from the hundreds to the thousands.

The most common are southern and eastern yellow jackets. Solitary yellow jackets usually keep to themselves and pose little threat.

Around the entrance to a colony is another story. Yellow jackets post guards at the entrance and will attack aggressively if disturbed. They will sting en masse when their nest is threatened. Nests are usually found by accident, mowing or weed eating close to a nest can cause a problem.

In the fall, only the fertilized queens survive. The next spring, they will build a new nest in another location.

Yellow jackets are beneficial predators, if their nests are out of the way. If a nest is active in an area where people may be harmed, the best time to treat the nest is at night.

The Yellow Jackets will all be back in the nest. Use an appropriately labeled jet stream aerosol spray or dust at the nest entrance. Make sure no one who is allergic to stings is nearby.

If in doubt, call a pest management company. A mistake may result in hospitalization or death. They are attracted to human food and waste products so keeping a tidy yard is important.

Another nasty critter introduced into this country is the European hornet. This is another stinging insect that is eusocial, which means they live in highly organized colonies like yellow jackets. This large wasp with reddish orange wings and brown and yellow striped abdomen build new, large, above ground nests usually in trees each spring and disappear in the fall.

They forage at night and are not attracted to human foods, but they can damage fruits such as apples while they are still on the tree. They are attracted to night lights and adjusting them accordingly will help prevent human contact. Never attempt to remove a nest, call a professional.

The third stinging insect is likely to be spotted on the soffit of a house. They are known for their paper-like, multi-celled, upside-down, umbrella shaped nests.

These paper wasps follow the same pattern as the European wasp and yellow jackets. They build a new nest each spring and reach their peak size in the fall. They inflict a painful sting defending their nests but are very docile when cruising the vegetable gardens preying on the bad bugs.

If they are a threat, use an aerosol, projected stream labeled insecticide to destroy their nests. It’s not a good idea to knock the nests down with a pole unless you’re pretty fast on your feet.

Remember, these insects are part of the natural scene. Only remove them when they become a threat to safety.

Running out of time to sign up for the upcoming Master Gardener program

Troup County Extension is hosting the Master Gardener Extension Volunteer Program starting Aug. 9.

If you wish to hone your skills in horticulture and related subjects this might be the program for you. We have a variety of topics lined up and taught by excellent instructors. We will cover a wide range of topics: botany, entomology, soils, plant nutrition, insect control, vegetables, herbs, plant propagation, planting and maintaining ornamentals, troubleshooting, pollinators, turf, trees and much more.

If you have your Tuesdays and Thursdays available and are willing to help out UGA Extension, send an email or call the office for more information. Please apply as soon as possible. We need at least 10 to sign up.

What’s going on in Extension?

Master Gardener Extension Volunteer class will begin Aug. 9 and run through Oct. 20. Classes will be held Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. The cost is $150. Call or stop by the office an application.

Georgia Master Cattleman Program starting Sept. 6. Call for more information.

Beekeepers Meeting: July 18 at the Ag Center at 7 p.m.

Market on Main: Every Saturday morning from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. starting June 4. Come by and enjoy the pick of the day. Carmike Cinemas LaGrange 10 parking lot.

If you have any questions or concerns, stop by or call the Extension office.

By Brian Maddy

Contributing columnist

Brian Maddy is the ANR Agent for Troup County Extension. The Troup County Extension office is located at 114 Church St. in LaGrange and may be reached at 706-883-1675, Monday–Friday 8 a.m.–noon and 15 p.m.