Facts About Bees, Wasps & Hornets

Bees, hornets and wasps are some of the most feared pests because of infamous sting they use for protection.

Truth be told, these insects are crucial to the environment and human agriculture. They pollinate plants and are the natural predators for many crop-destroying insects. The names bee, hornet, and wasp are often used interchangeably, but there are important differences between these bees

One difference is the location and physical appearance of the nest. 

Bees typically build their hives in cavities that are protected from the elements like hollow trees, wall voids, or attics. Living in colonies, the bees will be seen out of the hive collecting nectar and pollen from various flowering plants.

Unlike honey bees, wasps and hornets have no wax-producing glands, and instead create wasp nests from a paper-like substance from wood pulp. Wasps and hornets can live in colonies or live alone.

Bee Stings


Getting stung by a bee, hornet, or wasp is not only painful, but some people have allergic reactions.

If you get stung, start by removing the stinger. Use a credit card, tweezer or fingernail to scrape out the stinger. Avoid squeezing and pulling as this can push more venom into the wound. Once the stinger is removed, wash the area with soap and water then apply ice.

Elevate the area if you were stung on the arm or leg. Taking acetaminophen or ibuprofen can help reduce any pain. If you experience symptoms like dizziness, nausea, difficulty breathing and excessive swelling, seek emergency medical attention immediately. These are signs you could be allergic.

Signs of An Infestation

The easiest way to tell if an infestation is present is to locate the nest.

Nests of bees, hornets, and wasps vary greatly depending on the species of insect. Some build nests below ground or in the crevices in dead wood, while others drill tunnels into rotten wood. Other species will make freestanding nests made of mud, paper, or other natural materials. Some wasp species are parasitic, and will lay their eggs within insect hosts.

These insects can be categorized as either solitary or social. Solitary bees, hornets or wasps live independently and species that are social live in nests with caste systems.

Social species have queens, workers, and males which are called drones. Most only have one queen per nest with the exception of the paper wasp. Typically, the males and non-fertilized females die before winter and the queen will overwinter alone, starting a new colony in the spring. Only honey bees will overwinter together as a group. The fertilized female of solitary species will also overwinter.

Types of Bees, Hornets and Wasps

Bees, Wasps & Hornets Identification

Bees, hornets and wasps have hard bodies and two pairs of membranous wings. The forewings are typically a little longer than the hind wings. Adults in most species have mouthparts that are made for chewing, but some have tonguelike mouths made for sucking. Bees, hornets, and wasps have “pinched” waists called pedicels. The females of most species have a stinger.

Some key identifying traits among bees and wasps are:

  • Bees have hairy a body and legs, whereas wasps and hornets have smooth bodies and legs.

  • The abdomen and thorax of a bee are round, while that of wasps and hornets are cylindrical.

  • Bees have flat and wide legs, and wasps and hornets have round and waxy legs.

Bees In The Garden & The House

Some bees, hornets and wasps eat nectar, the honeydew from insects like aphids, sap and fruit juice, while others prey on other insects.

Evidence of a bee, hornet or wasp infestation really depends on the species. You may notice these insects buzzing around your home. This could mean that they are simply foraging for food in the area or that you have a more serious problem.

The best way you can tell if you have a bee, hornet, or wasp problem, is to look for nests. If you notice ¼-inch holes drilled into the wood of your siding or deck and see small piles of what looks like sawdust nearby, then you probably have carpenter bees. Look behind shutters and under the eaves of your home. Comb-like paper nests could mean you have paper wasps.

In these same areas or in the bushes near your house, you may see ball-shaped paper nests. These nests belong to the baldface hornet. If you notice mud tubes built under the eaves or in door jams then you may have mud dauber wasps.

Benefits of Professional Bee Removal & Control

Since bees, hornets and wasps are beneficial to the environment, seek treatment only if you think the insects are an immediate threat to your family or pets. Also, seek help from a pest management professional when you are concerned about your peace-of-mind. Bees, hornets and wasps are scary and it could be dangerous to handle yourself. Getting stung could not only be painful, but some people may have an allergic reaction.


Frequently Asked Questions

How can I prevent a bee, hornet or wasp infestation?

There are a few different ways you can prevent bees, hornets and wasps from building their nests on or near your house.

Keep plants, flowers and other landscaping away from the house as they are potential food sources and nesting sites. Staining or painting your wood siding and deck may prevent carpenter bees. You could also use synthetic material for the deck and siding, and cap any exposed wood with high performance metal.