A closeup of a wasp on its nest

Bees vs. wasps vs. hornets

The main difference between bees and wasps versus other hornets is their aggressiveness when it comes to their willingness to sting someone. With summer around the corner, we’re gearing up for stinging insect season. You might see this phrase on some of our informational flyers or on your service report – and wonder what, exactly, that means. This blog will explain the difference between bees, hornets, wasps and other stinging insects.


“We have bees!” is a common cry for help, and we’re more than happy to fix your problem! Most of the time, though, the troublesome insect turns out to be something other than a bee. How do we know? Honey bees are a passive species that generally avoid humans, sticking to delicious flowers and minding their own business.  There are a few other types of bees, such as the carpenter bee or miner bee, that may be causing problems at your home – but they’re rare compared to the other stinging insects.

If you do have honey bees, we’re going to try our best to protect them (as long as they aren’t a safety threat to you). Honey bees are vital to a healthy environment and provide essential pollinating services to many of the plants and vegetables we love to eat (vanilla is incapable of self-pollinating, and requires the help of humans or bees!). Honey bees are also facing huge challenges right now, such as hive collapse, and we should protect them if possible. For this reason, we may ask you a few questions about the type of stinging insect you’re seeing around your home before taking action.

Close up of bee on white background

Yellow jackets

The yellow jacket is the most common type of offender when it comes to the peace of the picnic. They nest under the eaves of the home and can become quite a problem – they have a painful sting and are drawn to colorful clothing and perfume. Although we may call them “bees”, they are actually quite different. They are 3/8” to 5/8” in length, and the abdomen is usually banded with yellow and black. You cannot see their legs while they’re in flight – an important identifying factor. We will help you eliminate yellow jacket nests if they are troubling your home or family.

Close up of a yellow jacket stinging insect on white background

Paper wasps

These wasps aren’t as aggressive as other wasp species, similar to the bee, but can be quite a nuisance if bothered. Their nests are beautiful “paper” creations, causing interest in children and nature lovers. Their sting, however, can cause a severe allergic reaction in some humans. You can identify these wasps by their dangling legs, which are visible even in flight. The key to these insects is to leave them alone – they only attack if they feel they, or their nest, is threatened.

Close up of paper wasp on white background

Bald-faced hornets

These guys are mean, there’s no other way to put it. Bald-faced hornets are an extremely aggressive species, unlike their distant relative the bee. They require little provocation and will sting a victim repeatedly. They can be recognized by their large oval paper nests, which can grow to be 14” in diameter and 24”’ in length. You can recognize them by the white markings on the face, which earn them the name “bald-faced”. These insects should be eliminated if they are anywhere near a human population, as they are a threat to children and those with any sort of allergies, meaning wasp control is vital in protecting yourself.

Close up of bald faced hornet stinging insect on grey concrete

Talk to our experts

If you are on our residential pest control program and you see any of these stinging insects – give us a call. We will come out, take a look, and manage the problem. If you aren’t one of our customers, go ahead and schedule a free inspection. We’d be happy to help you identify the problem and propose a plan of action.

Mr. Little

He’s represented Western for nearly a century. But he’s no old fogey. Follow Mr. Little’s blog for pest tips and facts!

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