Scary wasp-like critters in tomato planters

LaurieeeJuly 2, 2005

Hi folks,

The question regards burrowing buzzing creatures that make individual holes in my tomato planters. Do you know what they are, and/or what I should do? I don't know whether I should start chemical warfare (which I like to avoid), abandon my plants, or leave them alone and interact very carefully.

Rank newbie here, to the forum and to tomato culture. My home has three half-barrel planters on the back porch, with nothing deliberately grown in them for at least 10 years. This year I bought a tomato and cage for each planter. They've been growing like crazy, very dense, with little green fruits showing.

But now they are surrounded by "armed guards." For me a sting would not be life threatening, but would be quite health threatening. I have an inflammatory illness and any provocation of immune response is to be avoided if possible.

I don't know what these beasts are, and I'm not sure the tomatoes are worth the risk.

Description: the insects are not as fat as bees or as skinny as wasps. They're small, maybe a half inch long, and very "busy" buzzing around pretty quickly. And they are burrowing into small individual holes over the surface of the soil. They're black and yellow, some of them with the yellow very pale.

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carolyn137(z4/5 NY)

They're black and yellow, some of them with the yellow very pale.

Sounds like hornets although I assure you I'm no insect expert. They do burrow and just walking across the lawn to one of my former gardens was a danger b'c of stepping on their nests.

The more important issue is if you have an inflammatory disease and any antibody response is a danger to you then it seems you have no choice other than to go buy that wasp and hornet killer stuff and spray from a distance or have someone do it for you. Follow the directions on the label as to when the best time to spray.

Carolyn

    Bookmark   July 2, 2005 at 3:03PM
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worth1(8austintx)

Some bumble bees make holes also,what ever they are,around a nest they can get real nasty you do need to get rid of them.

Worth

    Bookmark   July 2, 2005 at 11:54PM
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farkee(Florida)

Ground nesting bees and wasps are considered beneficial--many are not agressive and if not in a bothersome place should not be poisoned. HOWEVER, as you say a sting would compromise your health than control would be obviously be warranted. GET SOMEONE ELSE TO DO IT FOR YOU--they could try a drench of soapy water after dark when they are not active. Then seal nest with dirt and mulch. There are pesticides that are available --a search on internet will provide specifics.

(Univ. of Fl.-)
" Many persons use commercially available wasp and hornet spray for killing the bees. This knocks down the insects quickly and can be used from a distance. Dust formulations of labelled persticides may also be pumped onto an enclosed nest. There is more and more evidence that soapy water is also a very good material to use that is inexpensive and relatively environmentally benign. How the bees are killed will depend on the particular situation."

All the literature says that if you are allergic to stings get professional control help. For the rest of us, pollinating insects should be protected and encouraged.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2005 at 11:17AM
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farkee(Florida)

Hi Worth forgot to mention, Bumble bees are not considered agressive and it isn't necesary to get rid of nests (unless allergic to stings). I have not seen one in my yard EVER (been here 25 years) though they do exist in FLorida. I love bumblebees and saw one at a botanical garden once in Palm Beach. I had to restrain myself not to steal it. I can only assume that pesticides have played havoc on that species. I recently thought that maybe I could BUY some bumblebees and am looking into it.

THis is the first thing I brought up in my favorite's list and they sell bumblebees for pollination purposes but there is alot of info. about bumble bees on internet.
"Bumblebee queens and workers can sting, but rarely do so except in their own defence and, usually, only if actually handled - SO AVOID PICKING THEM UP!

Unlike wasps, bumblebees are generally quite docile and non-aggressive, and go about their business with little attention to human activity, even when this is close to the nesting site. If a colony is unearthed or disturbed, for example when gardening, it should be left alone and simply covered over again. The bees will quickly repair any damage and carry on as before."

"There is no justification for destroying bumblebee colonies. Mostly they go unnoticed, but a small inconvenience due to the position of a nest is more than repaid by the immense value of these insects as pollinators of many wild and cultivated plants. Pollination in some crops, like runner beans and field beans, depends almost entirely on the foraging activity of bumblebees or honeybees. Few, if any, bean flowers will set pods unless visited by these insects. Likewise, many varieties of apples, pears and plums produce more fruit when bees are plentiful on the blossom." IPM Alaskan

Best wishes and hope your garden is productive for you this year. Farkee (I have 6 cats so believe you have me beat by one)

    Bookmark   July 3, 2005 at 12:08PM
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Laurieee

Thanks, everyone! Wise thoughts. I'm pretty sure these are not bees, and I'm glad for that if I have to kill them. Or rather, have my husband kill them, as you suggest.

I've purchased the wasp/hornet killer - getting both the long distance shot, and a liquid that can be poured on the soil. I wish I could communicate with the bugs and leave them alone. I can't take care of a plant when I'm terrified, and for me this is a substantial risk.

Thanks again.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2005 at 5:35PM
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worth1(8austintx)

HI Back Farkee,
Thanks for the lesson on bees.
ItÂs been about 35 years since I collected my first beehive way out in the Ouachita Mountains with a 12 ft crosscut saw that we used to cut down 3 ft diameter hollow oak tree, to get the honey felt bad for the bees so we took them home in a big ole box with the queen and made a new home for them. It started a new hobby that ended up with me building about 20 hives with supers an all I really liked the ones that I made so you could put up honey with the comb in the jar " big seller after church" They helped pollinate our 5 acre garden and about 100 fruit trees.
Now the bumble Bees are a nice lot too but you would have a hard time convincing my poor old departed Mom or Dad on them and yellow jackets. We had a big colony of the bumbles start under the cow feed we had stored in the barn that took off after my Mom,
It looked like one of those cartoon bee clouds they all went up into the air and converged and came down right on top of my Mom she must have been stung 50 times I was young and skinny at the time so I could get out of the way sort of used mom as a sacrifice she got pretty mad at me for not helping her and she stayed swollen up for 2 weeks.
Aint no way I was gonna stay around for that HAD TO GET RID OF THOSE BUMBLE BEES. Had a big nest of under ground yellow jackets get my Dad the tractor was way too slow he finally jumped off and ran with heart trouble and all glad it didnÂt kill him he sent me out later to get the tractor with a gallon of gas to pore down the hole they came from.
IÂm getting to old fat and slow to fight waspÂs beeÂs hornets and such so IÂm with you they are mostly a good bunch of guys so I just leave them alone. IÂm not scared of them at all.
DonÂt know what made that particular bunch so mad it must have been that gas had sky rocketed to the unbelievable price of 35 cents a gallon.
Every body have a great Fourth of July.

Worth

    Bookmark   July 3, 2005 at 9:32PM
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farkee(Florida)

Worth, loved your story. Can understand why your mom was none too fond of those bumblebees. I grew up in the midwest where we had bumblebees so I miss them. I am not afraid of wasps or bees (or should I say the non-aggressive ones) though I know yellow jackets are not to be reckoned with. Just my luck I will buy a bunch of bumblebees and they will end up chasing me all over the yard. Farkee

    Bookmark   July 3, 2005 at 11:51PM
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worth1(8austintx)

Farkee,
I too have noticed a decline in all types of critters Bumbles included it seems the over use of pesticides and flat out ignorance of wildlife and its role in our delicate environment has caused a terrible imbalance. I wont even kill a rattlesnake or spider the "fiddle back is an exception", I do hate those snake roundups as they kill all the snakes. I have lots of frogs and spiders and bees in my mater patch even after a little use of seven to kill the grasshoppers.

Worth

    Bookmark   July 5, 2005 at 10:44AM
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