As a beekeeper, I volunteer to help collect wayward bee colonies that have either swarmed or taken up residence in trees or buildings. Collected colonies are put into hive boxes and join the bee yard.
Unfortunately, sometimes we get called out to check out some “bees” that turn out to be social wasps. Most wasps are solitary, but a few, like yellow jackets, live in colonies. They build big, round, grey, papery nests in trees. They also prey on insect larvae (which they chew up and feed to their young), including bee larvae.
Last Wednesday, I responded to a call on the local beekeepers’ listserv about bees in a downed tree in the nearby town of Oregon, Wisconsin. Unfortunately, these were wasps. As a friendly neighborhood beekeeper, I donned my suit and dug out the nest. Oh well.
The landowner was friendly and had a great attitude: “I wasn’t sure if it was bees, but they need all the help they can get, so I just checked on Google and found you [the local Dane County Beekeepers’ Association].” If you have what you think are bees, find your local beekeeping association and let them know, someone will almost certainly respond and come give you a hand.