Bees are an insect of the order Hymenoptera, alongside their cousins the ants and the waps. Most bee species in Australia are solitary. Our variety of honey bee is the stingless bees. Even so, the introduced European honeybee is far more popular for commercial honey production.
Like wasps, bees are armed with stingers - modified ovipositors that deliver venom in one fell swoop. However, unlike wasps, bees can usually sting only once. Because their stingers are barbed, they usually remain inside the animal or human they stang, leaving them for dead, but not without them having the last laugh. Once the stinger remains inside, it continues to release venom and other chemicals that signal nearby bees of the threat. If a person is allergic, this could have serious ramifications and even a lethal outcome.
No, they don't. Because stingers in the order Hymenoptera are repurposed ovipositors, only female bees have stingers. Males (called drones) don't have stingers at all. Their only function in life is to procreate, which is why they have relatively short lifespans.
There are also species, such as the Austroplebeia stingless bees (native to Australia) that simply do not have stingers. Some other species, like the cuckoo bees, have reduced stingers, which limits their ability to sting.
- One of your first instincts should be to remove the stingers. Otherwise, it will keep delivering painful injections of venom over time. Careful not squeeze it, though. That might release the remaining venom all at once.
- In case of allergies, immediately look for the person's auto-injector (which contains epinephrine) and seek immediate medical attention. Swelling, trouble breathing, loss of consciousness and low blood pressure can all be symptoms of anaphylaxis. Note that people might not know they are allergic to stings if they've never been stung before.
- Putting ice, as well as baking soda and water on the stung area are all domestic remedies and quick fixes. The ice prevents swelling. The baking soda and water mix should reduce the itchiness;
- Check in with your general physician just in case;
This is a complicated question to answer. On one hand, native bees are essential to the ecosystem. They evolved alongside native plants and have become the engine of their pollination. Most native bee species in Australia are solitary, which means every female is fertile and they build their own nests. Hence, even if they live in close proximity to one another, most of them wouldn't be able to cause an infestation and be labelled as pests.
The social stingless bees are harmless and live in harmony with their environment. So they are not really pestilent, either. However, this is a pest control site, so there must be bees that are pests, right? An excellent observation! Indeed, the introduced European honeybees are responsible for most bee infestations. It's usually colonies gone feral. Because of their quick reproduction, they often out-compete the native bees for resources and disturb the natural order of things. They also aggressively defend their nests, so it's necessary to remove them carefully. Do not attempt this on your own unless you're an experienced apiarist. Opt for professional bee removal, instead.
Bee infestations are not hard to detect. Much like wasps, feral honey bees will likely build their hives in trees, under eaves, or in sheds. If there's an irregular number of bees flying around trees or your shed, that's probably where it will be located.
Many people believe that carpenter bees eat wood, but that is incorrect. They simply carve it. And they do it very efficiently. Having a carpenter bee infestation is more difficult to spot because they create their nests in wood. They can do structural damage very, very quickly so seek immediate professional help if you think this might be the case. Finding small holes in the wood and detritus outside is a pretty clear indication.
How to act if you have a bee infestation
The most important thing is to stay calm. Do not attempt to remove the hive on your own. Bees will die to protect it and you will get stung. Stay away and call in a professional because it's important to know what species is infesting you. Why does that matter?
European honeybees are an invasive species. While they're under control by apiarists and honey producers, it's fine. However, in some instances, a new hive is formed and it goes feral, meaning it's under no one's control. Those hives can grow quite a bit due to the social nature of the bees. Because they're not native to Australia, they don't have any natural predators here, either. So they start to compete with the native bee species. And unlike most native species, they don't leave much behind. This can cause a great problem for our native bees.
You might have heard about the dwindling bee populations. Well, we're not talking about invasive species. So it's important to know what we're dealing with.