Is It a Wasp or a Bee? How to Identify

Is It a Wasp or a Bee? How to Identify

Wasps and honey bees can be confused since both insects can inflict painful stings. While honey bees can attack when provoked, wasps are more aggressive predators by nature. 

It's important to recognize between honey bees and wasps to provide proper care treatment for stings and appropriate pest management. So, how can you tell the difference between a wasp and a bee?


How to Identify a Wasp or a Bee

1. Look at its Body

Wasps have a ‘waist’ where their bodies connect and are slimmer than bees with longer bodies and legs. Bees have thicker, rounder forms than wasps, with bumblebees being especially large and round. 

However, not all bees are entirely round, so inspect their middles to see if they have the unique 'waist' that wasps have when trying to identify them. Unlike wasps, bees have a noticeable feature of being hairy.

2. Check the Color

When we think of wasps and bees, we think of black and yellow coloring. However, the bright yellow stripes on wasps are more obvious than on a bee. 

So, if it’s a vibrant yellow, it’s most likely a wasp. Bees have an orange and brown color,  and their stripes are less apparent than those of wasps.

3. Observe its Behavior

Wasps are more aggressive by nature, but they will not intentionally sting you. They do, however, tend to hover around humans. 

Wasps are attracted to garbage and human food, so if your picnic is being attacked, it's most likely a wasp. Bees are passive insects that will only trouble people if they are threatened. Bees like to be near flowers and plants rather than human food. 

4. Identify the Nest

Wasps’ nests are often paper-like, with distinct grooves. They are created from chewed wood pulp that is collected early in the year. 

A wasp nest is the size of a golf ball at first, but it can expand to the size of a football. You can find their nests in a sheltered location near a source of wood, including roof spaces, sheds, and roof eaves. 

To find a wasp nest, carefully follow where they are coming from. Wasps tend to move in direct flight patterns once they’ve found a food source. 

Bee nests are typically found in cavities such as tree hollows, roof spaces, and even underground. Because of their honey-making ability, their nests are composed of hexagonal cells formed of bee wax and are known as honeycomb. 

You might even see a few dead bees at the entrance as worker bees force out the dead or weak ones to make room in the hive.

Different Types of Wasps

There are more than eighteen thousand wasp species in North America, with only about thirty species in North Carolina. The most common are yellow jackets, hornets, and mud daubers. Hornets are larger than yellow jackets and can be frightening. 

They can also be more aggressive than other types of wasps. However, both types of wasps are likely to sting if threatened, so it’s important to stay calm around them and move away from them when possible. 

Different Types of Bees

There are more than 500 species of native bees found in North Carolina. Bees are considered efficient pollinators due to collecting pollen to feed their young. The major groups of bees you will see are bumblebees, honey bees, mason bees, and mining bees. Unless threatened, these types of bees are all harmless.

Bumblebees are social insects, and it's not surprising that we see them in parks and flower gardens. They are identified by their shape, which is round and fuzzy. Honey bees are small, sand-colored bees with golden amber bands. However, it's rare to observe wild honey bees since they prefer to live in domestic hives that are maintained by beekeepers.

Mason Bees are another common type of bee that can be found buzzing around brick walls. They stand out because of their long hair and boxy heads. Mason bees are completely harmless because they cannot sting.

Mining Bees are a solitary species that nests in the earth and are not commonly seen. They can be found in parks, gardens, and near the bare ground. They vary in size, but you can typically tell them apart by their color. Mining bees' bodies are either bright ginger or completely ashy. Although the bees have different roles, they all have the same passive personality. Bees will not sting you if you don't harm them.

Hornet and Wasp Pest Control

Bees play an important role in crop pollination and the production of honey and beeswax. It's important that we don't harm them since they are an endangered species that needs to be protected. Knowing the difference between bees and wasps will not only help us protect them, but it will also likely reduce your panic if one flies by at your next picnic.

Hornets and wasps can be dangerous to you and your family. Rid-A-Bug wants to help you get rid of these dangerous flying pests. Rid-A-Bug technicians serve North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia. 

Wasps can construct nests around your home, allowing them to multiply and invade your space. Give us a call if you suspect your home is being attacked by wasps.