Wasp, Hornet and Bee Species

There may be hundreds of types of wasps, hornets and bees found around the world. Only a few of these species are seen as real pests here in the U.S. and some of them do not sting.

Some species, like the Honey Bee, are actually a valuable part of our ecosystem. Understanding their habits, lifecycle and appearance can help to identify the best form of wasp control for your home or business.

See our list below of common species found in the U.S.

European Wasp and English Wasp

(Family: Vespidae, e.g. Vespula Vulgaris & Vespula germanica)

These are the two commonly found wasp species across the U.S. and the ones responsible for causing painful wasp stings.

Once indoors, they prefer to build nests in sheltered locations with easy access to the outside, such as lofts, garages and wall cavities. Outside they may nest in old rodent burrows, hollow trees and bushes.

Appearance

  • Yellow and black body, marking varies according to species.
  • Workers vary in size from 12 – 17mm.

Key Facts

  • Only young Queens survive over winter and emerge in the spring to start nest building and lay eggs.
  • Workers (sterile females) emerge during early summer and take over nest building. Queen continues to lay eggs.
  • New queens and males mate in early autumn.
  • Nest dies during winter, including all the males and workers.
  • Wasps do not swarm.
  • Food preferences — will take insects and sweet foods.
  • Females sting readily and repeatedly.
  • A colony may have as many as 25,000 individual wasps.

Honey Bee

(Apis Mellifera)

Honey bees are the species kept by Bee Keepers.

If you have a problem with honey bees, contact a local Beekeeper or the Environmental Protection Agency as they will be able to arrange for the swarm to be relocated.

Key Facts

  • They live in hollow trees or in chimneys, wall cavities or roof spaces.
  • They are similar in size to wasps but are furrier and mostly black in color.
  • Honey bees convert nectar into honey and beeswax.
  • A honey bee swarm will arrive in flight and cluster on a tree branch.
  • A colony size can often be greater than 30,000 individual honey bees.
  • Population under threat from varroa mite.

Solitary Bee

(Osmia rufa)

Appearance

  • Often similar to the honey bee.

Lifecycle

  • Colony size - small nests which are individually tended by a female. 
  • Preferred nest sites - often in soil, sometimes in soft cement and mortar between bricks. 
  • Nest construction - various materials. Usually a new nest each year.

Habits

  • Swarming - does not swarm. 
  • Overwintering - usually in the pupal stage within the nest. 
  • Food preferences - honey and pollen. 
  • Rarely stings.

Yellow Jackets (Social Wasp)

(Vespula)

Appearance

  • Worker - 1/2 inch long. 
  • Queen - 3/4 inch long. 
  • Alternating black and yellow bands. 
  • Two sets of wings. 
  • Narrow waist. 
  • Lance-like stinger.

Lifecycle

  • Annual colonies. 
  • Queen begins to nest in Spring. 
  • Aggressive numbers in late Summer. 
  • Colonies begin to decline by Fall. 
  • Only inseminated Queens nest over Winter.

Habits

  • Feeding – at certain times of the year feed on insects including caterpillars / harmful flies, as colonies increase they are attracted to food consumed by humans. 
  • Sting – sting repeatedly, will sting if provoked with symptoms range from swelling to life-threatening allergic shock. 
  • Visibility – visible during the day as they don't see well at night. 
  • Nesting - in trees / shrubs, or internally in attics, hollow walls/ flooring, sheds, under porches/eaves of buildings.

Carpenter Bees

(Xylocopa virginica)

Appearance

  • 3/4 - 1 inch long. 
  • Female faces are black, male faces are yellow. 
  • Bright yellow, orange or white hairs on the thorax. 
  • No hair on abdomen. 
  • Females have a stinger, males do not.

Lifecycle

  • Tunnel into wood to lay eggs. 
  • Life cycle from egg – larva – pupa - adult takes approximately seven weeks. 
  • Larva is large and noisy. 
  • New adults emerge from the nest late August.

Habits

  • Sting - Only sting if provoked. 
  • Visibility - Late-spring to mid-October. 
  • Nesting - Bare, untreated softwoods are preferred, including redwood, cedar, cypress and pine. Old nests are used year after year. 
  • Location – Nests can be found in eaves, window trims, facia boards, siding, decks and outdoor furniture. 
  • Feeding - flowers that contain pollen, eg Bradfords, Daffodils, Pansies. Pollen stored in abandoned tunnels for overwintering.