Bees, Wasps, Hornets, and Yellow Jackets– How to Tell the Difference


Buzz….buzzz….buzzzzz……ow! As we progress further into spring, you will likely be hearing the buzzing of stinging insects. However, getting stung is fun for nobody! Today, we will share with you how to tell the difference between bees, wasps, hornets, and yellow jackets.


Bees are celebrated as one of the best insects globally because they are our primary pollinators and are the creators of honey. Most individuals will celebrate having bees buzzing around their yard, and beekeeping has become a popular hobby.

Bees are relatively easy to identify. Bees are fat, fuzzy, and tend to move slowly. You will often find them bopping from flower to flower, as they are herbivores, and they likely won’t bother you as you pass by.

Bees are much gentler than their cousins due to their ability to only sting once in their lifetime. Bees will only sting you when aggravated, such as if they were to get stepped on or you got too close to their nest.

Speaking of nests, the nest’s location will depend on the species of bee. Honeybees prefer to nest in cavities, like a hollowed-out tree trunk or bee box. Bumblebees, however, prefer to nest underground. There are even solitary bees that live alone; they often choose to nest in the ground as well.

Beehives generally have a population of around 100, but giant nests can reach tens of thousands of bees. The colony is centered around a single queen bee that can live up to 5 years, whereas the worker and drone bees usually just live for a few weeks to the end of the summer season.

Wasps, Hornets, and Yellow Jackets

Contrary to popular perception, hornets and yellow jackets are actually just a type of wasp. These scarier looking insects are omnivores that will eat meat, like spiders, in addition to plant substances.

Wasps are much larger than bees. Instead of a fuzzy blob with wings, wasps have clearly defined body sections, long wings, and little to no hair. In particular, hornets are mostly black, whereas yellow jackets are bright yellow (hence the name).

Wasps are much more aggressive than bees and can sting multiple times. Wasps are easily provoked; even the vibrations of a lawnmower can piss them off. Unfortunately, wasps will chase you and sting you numerous times, making them a serious threat to the safety of your property.

Unlike bees, wasps can’t produce wax to make their nests. Therefore, they create a papery substance made from wood pulp or mud. As for nesting, hornets are more like bees, whereas yellow jackets prefer to nest in confined spaces underground, mainly pre-made rodent nests that were abandoned.

Wasps nests follow a similar structure as bees nests, except for the fact that they can have multiple queens. Additionally, wasp nests can quickly grow to thousands in population, which is concerning given how aggressive they are.

Stinging Insect Control

Are you having problems with bees, wasps, hornets, or yellow jackets? We recommend booking an appointment with us to diagnose your problem and offer solutions so you can get back to living your best life. For more information on preventing stinging insects from becoming a nuisance, please check out our next blog! Coming soon!