I.D. a Bee

How to Identify a Honey Bee, Wasps, Yellow Jackets, Hornets, and other Beneficial Insects


Honey Bees

Honeybees live year round, their size ranging from ½” to ¾”. They can be observed as a giant swarm migrating, or as 5 to 20 buzzing around an eve, chimney, or other structural openings. New honeybee swarms consist of 4,000 to 6,000 bees. An active hive generally has 10,000 to 50,000 bees and 20 to 80 lbs of honey. Respectively, there is no such thing as a small hive. Honeybees have barbed stingers, if a bee stings a person or an animal, the bee will lose its stinger and die. The average life span of a single honeybee is about 6 weeks in the summer and 4 months in the winter.

Africanized Honeybees (AHB)

Look the same as the European honeybee, though unnoticeably smaller in size, Africanized honeybees are very aggressive, territorial, and may nest in awkward places. They defend their hive in large numbers, can stay aggressive for days after being disturbed. Africanized bees are extremely aggravated by loud noises, and vibrations. In addition, they are highly provoked by certain smells such as fresh cut grass and bananas. For more info on AHB visit the africanized honey beepage.

Bumble Bees

Found living in nests of 15 to 100 in cavities in the ground, under sheds, or other random places usually low to the ground. Bumblebees are seasonal, after summer only the queen survives, starting a new colony in the spring. They are known to defend their hive very aggressively and can sting multiple times. Like many types of bees, the bumble bee species is declining.

Carpenter Bees

Male carpenter bees are solid black, they also cannot sting. The females are tan in color and sting quite well. Carpenter bees are sometimes mistaken for bumblebees, however carpenter bees are shiny with less hair. There flight is faster than a bumblebee’s, and is also a more jerky flight, very similar to a hummingbird. Carpenter bees are solitary bees burrowing holes the size of a dime or penny into wood patio covers, eaves, and other places. Average size is one inch in length.

Stingless Bees

With the decline of honeybees, stingless bee species are more recently being considered as options for pollination of kind. Native stingless honeybees as polinators are less a type of problem pest to home owners than honeybees. Stingless bees defend themselves by biting, they nest in tree trunks, branches, and ground cavities.


Wasps are generally seen as a benefit to the environment, wasps are predatory flying insects. Wasps species are a great source of organic pest control on gardens, farms, and crops. There are generally two types of wasps, solitary and social wasps. Social wasp species live in large numbers. Wasp nests are abandoned by late autumn; the remaining queens also leave and over-winter until spring. Wasps eat meat and sweets. Wasps can be more hot-tempered than bees, and should be treated with caution. If you’re trying to eliminate nuisance wasps attached to your home or near a doorway, it is best done at night or very early in the morning. Below are pictures and information on common wasps in the U.S. and Canada.

Yellow Jackets

1/2 inch in size. Type: Social Wasp Up to 5,000 members per nest. Nests have multiple layers. Yellow Jackets are popular in the north east, mid east and south east regions. Often mistaken for honeybees, yellow jackets are a bit smaller in size, and are also brighter yellow as to the more orange color of honeybees. Yellow jackets may have a rapid side to side flight pattern prior to landing. They are scavengers eating meats and sweets and often found in parks or disrupting parties, picnics or other park events. Yellow jackets are sometimes called meat wasps, meat bees, or hornets. They have a stinger without barbs and can sting repeatedly without dying. Yellow jacket stings most often cause a swelling reaction followed by itching for a couple days. They are very aggressive defenders and are generally found nesting in holes in the ground; though occasionally nest in wall voids and attics. Seasonally, yellow jacket colony’s reach a size of 4,000 and 5,000 workers and a nest of 10,000 and 15,000 cells in August and early September. Like all wasps, yellow jackets abandoned their nest by late autumn. It’s generally considered unwise to try to remove a yellow jackets nest yourself.

Occasionally yellow jackets can end up in the house in large numbers. This is usually preceded by a slow growing wet spot on the ceiling, caused from liquid dripping from the established nest onto the drywall day after day. Every so often, a curious homeowner will poke or push their finger right through the deteriorated ceiling and end up with an unfortunate surprise.

Yellow jackets attached to the house will not survive through winter. However, the queens abandon the nest and will hibernate until early spring, with 95% of them hibernating in attics. If you have yellow jackets in your attic, one thing you can do to discourage them returning next year is to put up some chemical cards labeled for yellowjackets like “hot shot,” perhaps one to every 3 studs / bays. Yellow jacks tend to choose either the eave or the foundation of the house, and occasionally where the chimney and the wall meet.


Up to 2 inches in size Type: Social Wasp Have up to 700 members per nest. Hornets are most popular in the north east region Some hornets species can look similar to yellow jackets, but hornets are larger and thicker. Hornets are slightly less aggressive than yellow jackets and like most wasps, hornets can sting multiple times with a very strong painful sting. Hornets build warped ball shaped nests the size of a football or soccer ball in eaves, attics, and building, including bushes, trees. It’s generally considered unwise to try to remove a hornets’ nest without experience. While most hornet species are yellow and black, there are also white and black hornets.

Paper Wasps

3/4 to an inch long. Type: Social wasps Nest sizes generally consist of 5 to 30 wasps West and South east regions. There are many species of paper wasps in the US. Paper wasps average 3/4″ to 1 1/2″ long; yellow and black in appearance. Nests are made of grayish brown papery material. Paper wasp nests are relatively small containing 4 to 30 wasps per nest not, to be confused with hornets which build much larger hives and can be similar in size. Paper wasps are often found hanging under the eaves, but can also be found in attics, trees, as well as other structures. Paper wasps attack when aggravated and have a painful sting; they can also sting multiple times and do not loose there stinger.

Occasionally these wasps are found inside the house. This happens when a nest is living in the attic and there is perhaps a bit of light entering the attic from a wall vent or ceiling fixture. In this case the wasp goes to the light thinking it leads back outside but ends up in the house. At this point the wasp will typically fly around near the windows looking for an exit. Wasps are much more comfortable navigating inside of a house than honeybees are, as honeybees simply go strait to the window and buzz until exhausted.

There are 3 types of mud wasps shown below: mud daubers, potter wasps, and pollen wasps. These species are typically found in the same surrounding areas as one another. They earned the name Mud Wasps, as they construct their homes from mud or clay. Mud wasps nest in the ground as well as on walls of homes and businesses. Mud wasps are solitary wasps and vary from 1/2 inch to 1 inch in size and have relativly small nests.

Special thanks to Adkins Bees Removal for sharing this information.