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Offline Braveheart

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Strange insect
« on: August 01, 2016, 07:04:27 PM »
Just wonder, if by description, one of you may know what an insect is that has just appeared, never having seen one before.  It seems to have two thoracies, as in 2 bodies and has long legs and a sharp face.  It builds its nests in a similar way to wasps, ie it looks like cardboard, but it isn't very deep, may be 2-3 inches in length.  Just wonder if anyone else has seen these or are they unique  :)


thediggers

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Re: Strange insect
« Reply #1 on: August 01, 2016, 07:24:25 PM »
A mud dauber?

Offline levissima

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Re: Strange insect
« Reply #2 on: August 01, 2016, 08:47:45 PM »


I have this, which I think is a wasp nest, under the balcony outside my bedroom. So far it's causing no problem from the wasps and I've not had a single mozzie in the room this summer. I think the wasps are eating them. At the moment I'm leaving well alone but if it starts being a problem I'll get it sorted.

Offline Shebar

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Re: Strange insect
« Reply #3 on: August 01, 2016, 09:03:54 PM »
There have been very few mozzies so far this year - not many ticks on the dog, and I've only seen one ladybird so far.... is this a worry?

I think there are several different insects that make homes similar to the one you've got Levi, and I don't think this is a wasp home, wasps make "honeycomb" style colonies.

thediggers

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Re: Strange insect
« Reply #4 on: August 01, 2016, 09:44:06 PM »


I have this, which I think is a wasp nest, under the balcony outside my bedroom. So far it's causing no problem from the wasps and I've not had a single mozzie in the room this summer. I think the wasps are eating them. At the moment I'm leaving well alone but if it starts being a problem I'll get it sorted.

Looks very much like a paper wasps nest to me Levi ...

Offline rsetzer99

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Re: Strange insect
« Reply #5 on: August 01, 2016, 10:31:03 PM »
paper wasp nests on Google look just like that, so I agree. The feed on nectar and pollen as well as things like caterpillars. They will defend a nest very aggressively if is disturbed.

Offline Allan Mason

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Re: Strange insect
« Reply #6 on: August 01, 2016, 11:12:26 PM »
I agree that it's a paper wasp's nest.

It's possible that they have had some impact on the local mosquito population, since they are insectivores. (Unlike honey bees which feed pollen to their larvae, wasps supply protein to their young in the form of chewed up insects.)

I don't recall ever seeing that particular form of wasp nest in Abruzzo. The ones we often saw were shaped a bit like mushrooms with the cells exposed on the top. They were built behind shutters that were always open, under roof tiles and in other places protected from the weather. I suspect that's what Shebar is describing.

If the wasps aren't bothering you, I think you're right to just leave it alone. We never noticed the little paper wasps being aggressively annoying in their search for sweet stuff the way the common British wasp is later in the summer. Wasp colonies don't over-winter; lone mated queens find somewhere to doze the cold months away and the survivors then each start a new colony in the spring. When the weather turns cold, the nest should be empty and it will be safe to knock it down if you want to.

Offline Braveheart

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Re: Strange insect
« Reply #7 on: August 02, 2016, 09:39:35 AM »
Thank you all and the prize goes to The Diggers, it is a mud daub!

Offline dolcevita

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Re: Strange insect
« Reply #8 on: August 02, 2016, 02:19:46 PM »
As we are on the subject of bees/wasps what should I do about a swarm of bees in our chimney? Its sealed so they cannot get far down but will they carry on living there forever? I know we cannot harm bees nor would I want to but could we do anything?
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Offline Allan Mason

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Re: Strange insect
« Reply #9 on: August 02, 2016, 05:30:32 PM »
As we are on the subject of bees/wasps what should I do about a swarm of bees in our chimney? Its sealed so they cannot get far down but will they carry on living there forever? I know we cannot harm bees nor would I want to but could we do anything?

Not sure if the chimney and bees are in UK or Italy. Contrary to popular belief, bees are not legally protected in the UK. I've no idea what the legal position is in Italy.

Wasps and hornet nests are made of paper. If one of these is in a chimney, lighting a fire is likely - assuming the flue is not completely blocked - to result in the nest igniting. The worst that might then happen is that it could start a chimney fire, but the chance of this would be reduced if the flue had been swept recently and there was little soot.

Honey bee colonies in chimneys and the fabric of houses are often difficult to remove. The job can become extremely difficult and expensive if the property owner doesn't want to harm the bees.

The problem is that, even if you were to go down what appears to be the quick and easy route and sprayed pesticide on the nest to kill all the bees, the nest with thousands of developing larvae, probably several kilos of honey, perhaps a kilo of stored pollen and likely more than a kilo of highly flammable beeswax would remain. Larvae, honey and wax are all very appealing to various sorts of insects and they would soon move in. If the pesticide residues killed them, you'd then have even more slowly decaying organic material in the house. If the scavengers survived, you'd then have lots of dripping honey, flies, ants, wax moths and other bugs around until the mess was all removed.

The alternative is to get in a beekeeper who is experienced in doing such removals. Some people believe the media hype about honey bees being extremely rare and difficult to keep, so they expect the beekeeper to do the removal for nothing or even to pay for the bees they remove. The reality is that no sane beekeeper is desperate to collect a bunch of bees of unknown origin which might be carrying various diseases. Beekeepers in the UK do swarm collection on a voluntary basis as a public service and because they like bees, not because they are always short of bees or because swarms are a great way of making loads of money; removing an established honey bee colony is a very different job to collecting a swarm and it requires a special skill set and often specialised equipment.

Most beekeepers would not be interested in trying to deal with a full-strength colony that has made its home in a loft, inside a wall or down a chimney. If the bees are inside the fabric of a building, the beekeeper will charge for his time, as will any tradesmen who might be necessary to provide access and then make good the damage that the removal required.

As for the question of how long a "feral" honey bee colony can survive: they can - in theory - live virtually forever. Obviously the individual bees live for only a few weeks or (over the winter) a few months, but the "super-organism" that is a healthy honey bee colony can continue indefinitely. Individual bees are born, carry out their duties in the hive and as foragers and then die, while the super-organism regularly reproduces when last year's queen leaves in a swarm and a new queen is raised by the remaining bees. However, the evidence is that untended bee colonies don't survive that long these days. The spread of various diseases by the parasitic varroa mite - against which European honey bees have no natural defence - means that colonies living in the wild usually collapse after just a few years.

The normal progression in such cases is that the reproduction of the bees slows to the point where there are not the numbers necessary for the colony to survive and the stores of honey and pollen are consumed. Eventually, all that's left is a pile of dead bees at the bottom of the nesting cavity and some empty combs. The bees decay and wax months soon move in to consume the comb so, in a few years, there should be few signs that the colony was ever there.

However, if one swarm has taken up residence in a particular space, it's clear that it meets the instinctive criteria used by swarming bees when they're looking for a place to live, so another swarm may well take up residence at some point.

Amongst beekeepers, opinions about feral honey bees vary. Some think they're a festering breeding ground of disease and parasites that are spread to apiaries in the area. Others believe that they are an evolutionary testing ground where natural resistance to viral diseases and varroa may well first develop. Personally, I'm inclined to the latter view.

If your bees, Dolcevita, are not creating any problems, if you're content for them to be where they are and if you have no concerns about what might happen to your house if (as a worst-case scenario) a few kilos of honey were deposited in the chimney then, by all means, leave them alone. If, however, you'd like to have them removed at some point or to get an expert opinion on what this might actually involve, the best first step would be to find someone local here: http://www.bbka.org.uk/help/find_a_swarm_coordinator.php

That page is specifically for swarm collection, but you should at least be able to speak to someone who can give you the contact details for someone who deals with the removal of established colonies. Be aware, however, that you might have problems getting through at this time of year. Although it's getting toward the end of the official swarming season, I know there are many beekeepers who start ignoring their phone around this time since, firstly, they don't have any more boxes to put swarms in and, secondly, they're completely fed up with dealing with constant calls from people who want bumble bees, solitary bees and wasps dealt with for free and who get very obnoxious when told that this is not what swarm collectors do.

Al

Offline Venatore

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Re: Strange insect
« Reply #10 on: August 03, 2016, 12:59:56 AM »
Excellent advice Al.
I had a swarm of bees greet me on my return one day making their new home in the eaves above my patio. Now I like bees but I also like to sit on my patio of an sunny evening and enjoy a glass of something cheap. Fortunately Google supplied me with the phone number of a local beekeeper who collects swarms as a public service and he was able to provide some useful advice. He told me that because they were under the roof tiles that they would be difficult, disruptive and expensive to remove but he suggested something to try myself, namely to gather up some pungent but harmless household sprays and douse the bees entrance areas liberally and frequently and see if that put them off. Now I was probably very generous with the application but low and behold by the next day they had gone. More Google searches suggest home made sprays of soapy water with peppermint, cinnamon and the like have a similar effect, so maybe flooding your chimney with something along these lines might help!
V.

Offline Allan Mason

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Re: Strange insect
« Reply #11 on: August 03, 2016, 09:56:46 AM »
Depending upon on one's view of bees, honey bee swarms are either very impressive or terrifying.

Generally speaking, swarms are not dangerous. Each individual bee's main instincts are to stay near the queen and to find a new place to live. They don't have honey stores to protect, so there's no instinct to attack animals (including humans) that come near the swarm. If a bee gets swatted or tangled in hair, they may well sting, but this shouldn't provoke a mass attack. The alarm pheromones released by the sting may cause some agitation among nearby bees, but the instinctive response to a sting - to get away from the bees - should mean that nothing more happens.

The normal process in swarming is for bees to leave the hive, fly in a circling cloud formation for anything from a few metres up to a couple of kilometers and then come to rest in a cluster on a solid object, normally in a place offering a bit of protection from the weather. This solid cluster of bees can be anything from the size of a grapefruit to as big as a football. Bees then fly out into the surrounding area looking for an appropriate new permanent home. After anything from an hour to a couple days, the swarm "decides" that they've found a good place to live and the cluster breaks up and flies away.

If a cluster has been in place for more than a day, they should be treated with caution since they tend to get increasingly agitated about being out in the open rather than in a nice dark cavity of some sort. However, newly formed clusters are generally not at all aggressive, even though they appear to be a seething mass with lots of maniacal circling bees. Beekeepers routinely collect a cluster hanging off a branch by simply putting a box beneath the bees and giving the branch a sharp shake. The cluster of bees falls into the box as a solid mass with very little fuss and most of the flying bees soon settle there.

I wouldn't suggest that anyone who's not an experienced beekeeper should attempt to shift a swarm cluster by this method.  ;D

Unless the cluster is in a place where they really cannot be tolerated for a few hours or days, the best thing to do is either contact a swarm collecting beekeeper as soon as possible or just leave them alone. The beekeeper will want to be sure that they are honey bees and also exactly when they appeared, since it's very common for swarm collectors to find the bees have flown off by the time they arrive. It's highly unlikely that the bees will start to make a permanent home on an exposed tree branch, under a car wheel-arch or hanging off a bicycle frame.

Spraying bees with water - particularly soapy water - or household cleaning products will indeed put them off since the bees will be killed. In fact, using water with detergent is a better way of killing bees than using pesticide since the bees are effectively suffocated and a bee with soaked wings cannot fly so they tend to die quietly, whereas the toxins in pesticides result in the bees becoming very agitated. Not only is this less humane, the bees tend to fly around frantically after being poisoned and if they bump into a human, they may well sting.

One should be very careful about using essential oils with bees. Lemongrass essential oil mimics the odour of the pheromone given off by the queen and is used by beekeepers trying to attract swarms to empty hives. Beekeepers use anise and spearmint essential oils as a feeding stimulant for bees. Banana essential oil mimics the alarm pheromone produced when a bee stings and a whiff of it will put nearby bees in "colony defense" mode. I'm not aware of any essential oil or combination of oils that acts as an effective bee repellent, but then I've never looked for one; I'm interested in keeping bees, not making them go away!  :)

Al

Offline Venatore

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Re: Strange insect
« Reply #12 on: August 03, 2016, 10:41:25 AM »
Al, you are without doubt our 'go to' oracle on bees. ;)
V.

Offline dolcevita

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Re: Strange insect
« Reply #13 on: August 04, 2016, 01:52:49 PM »
I'm a great fan of bees and hornets so I would not want to remove them as I said the chimney isn't currently open as we had to repair a badly constructed and dangerous chimney inside the house HOWEVER I'm thinking of bringing a small wood burner over to Italy in September to use in our bedroom which I'd like to use in the future as somewhere to paint and sew so I'd like an extra source of warmth.

If my builder removes the chimney where the bees are and reconstructs it in the winter will the bees still be there?And dangerous?

There will be a flue into the roof which will come out into this 80 cm high chimney.
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Offline Allan Mason

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Re: Strange insect
« Reply #14 on: August 04, 2016, 03:58:04 PM »
...If my builder removes the chimney where the bees are and reconstructs it in the winter will the bees still be there?And dangerous?...

Depends on the time of year and the insects.

If the work is being done in the dead of winter (say, January) and the insects are wasps or hornets, the workers should have all died and there shouldn't be anything more than the odd queen over-wintering in the nest. To be honest, I'm not sure if hornet and wasp queens do over-winter in old nests, or if they instinctively seek out a sheltered spot away from the nest. I'd think it safest to assume there will be something in the nest over winter and treat it with respect.

If you're certain that you do indeed have honey bees in your chimney, then you also have a problem.

A major difference between honey bees, solitary bees, wasps and hornets is that honey bee colonies survive the winter by eating honey (essentially "burning" it as fuel in their muscles to keep the colony warm). No matter how little activity you see on the outside in winter, you must assume that if you saw bees entering and leaving a wild honey bee colony during the previous autumn, there will continue to be a few thousand live bees present right through the winter. They may starve or succumb to disease at some point during the winter - many colonies do - but if a colony goes into winter with a good supply of honey and in a generally good state of health, the odds they will make it through to spring are probably at least even.

Bees can't hear, but they are sensitive to vibration near the colony. Worst case scenario: your builder starts hammering or using a Kango on the chimney. There's a large colony of honey bees in residence with a lot of honey to defend. After a few minutes of constant vibrations riling the colony, the builder breaks through chimney. Bees see light and something moving beyond.

...I wouldn't want to be the builder.

If you're determined not to disturb the bees, then the cheapest and simplest option is to wait until the colony dies of natural causes. As I said above, the colony might survive you and me, but it's more likely it will disappear in a year or two. Once you no longer see bees regularly entering and leaving the chimney during the summer, you should block up the entrance so it's not recolonised.

If this was in Britain, you would have the option of finding a beekeeper who deals with "cut outs" of established honey bee colonies. They might work with a builder (who would be suitably protected and briefed) to open up the chimney and remove the comb and bees. It is possible for this to be done in winter, but I believe most beekeepers would prefer to do it in spring when the colony is relatively small and the weather warm enough that the bees which fly off don't immediately die of cold.

I have no idea if Italian beekeepers bother with cut outs. Honey bees are so prolific in Abruzzo that I suspect beekeepers there would consider this far too much effort just to collect an unknown quantity of bees in an unknown state of health and with an unknown ability to produce honey.

Hope this is of some help.

Al