Wasps: How to tell the difference between wasps and bees — Dalgetty Pest Control (2022)

Wasps: How to tell the difference between wasps and bees — Dalgetty Pest Control (1)

In Scotland it feels rare that we get a lovely day, so when we do we are always determined to make the most of it. However there always seems to be one thing that comes along and spoils it - those bloody wasps!

Wasps and bees are often confused, and i’m going to guess that you’ve mistakenly ran away from a bee more than once in your life!

So how do you actually tell the difference between a wasp and a bee?
In this article we’re going to show you their key characteristics so that you can stop panicking every time you see a yellow jacket insect flying around your picnic area.

Why are bees important to protect?

Wasps: How to tell the difference between wasps and bees — Dalgetty Pest Control (2)

The Telegraph Newspaper recently reported that “Bees contribute £651 million to the UK economy a year, £150 million more than the Royal Family brings in through tourism.”

How is this you ask? Well ranked as the world number one pollinator of food crops, they are responsible for securing homegrown produce across the UK. Without them this would be drastically reduced.

Over the past half century there has been a huge decline in bees, with Honeybee colonies dropping from 250,000 in 1950’s to fewer than 100,000 today.

There have been many campaigns launched to support the bees, some of which can be simply done at home by planting more flowers in your gardens and actually letting your grass grow a little longer before cutting it back.

If you want to know what else you can do for the bees, why not check out the friends of the earth website for some tips

Bees and Wasps Identification: An Introduction

Wasps: How to tell the difference between wasps and bees — Dalgetty Pest Control (3)

We’ve explained the benefits of bees but wasps aren’t actually all bad, they are in fact also great pollinators for our plants and crops. However they get their bad reputation due to their more aggressive behaviour.

If they aren’t doing you any harm we’d suggest leaving them be, however we also understand that having them on mass particularly around kids and pets is not an enjoyable experience.

Wasp stings although not pleasant can be as mild as a small swelling, with the pain subsiding after a few hours. However they can also be really dangerous, causing people to go into Anaphylaxis. For this reason we would advise that you always get a professional pest controller in to get rid of a wasps nest unless it is in the very early stages.

As for bees nests we would never recommend disposing of the hive as they are an endangered species that our country needs for its pollination services, unless they are causing a health and safety hazard. If this is the case we would advise getting in the local bee keepers as they will be able to move them to another location

The question still stands though, how do we tell the difference between a bee and wasp?

Bees and Wasps Identification: How to identify a wasp:

Wasps: How to tell the difference between wasps and bees — Dalgetty Pest Control (4)

1) Look at its body.

Wasps will have a ‘waist’, where their body joins. They are also thinner and have longer bodies and legs than bees.

2) Check the colour

When we think of wasps and bees, we automatically think of black and yellow colouring. However, the bright yellow stripes are more obvious on a wasp, than a bee. So, if it looks bright yellow, it’s most likely to be wasp.

3) Look at its behaviour

Wasps tend to be more aggressive by nature. And although they won’t go out of their way to sting you, they do tend to hover around humans. Wasps will also be attracted to rubbish or human food, so if you feel like your picnic is under attack, it’s most likely to be a wasp that you’re facing!

4) Identify the nest

Wasps tend to have paper like nests, with distinctive grooves on them. They are made from chewed wood pulp that they gather during the early part of the year. A wasp nest is small in size at the start (golf ball sized); but can quite quickly grow to larger than a football. They are usually located somewhere sheltered near a source of wood; roof spaces, sheds and roof eaves are frequently used. To find a wasps nest just follow where they are coming from, they tend to move in fairly direct flight patterns once they’ve found a food source.

Different types of wasps

Wasps: How to tell the difference between wasps and bees — Dalgetty Pest Control (5)

It’s said that in the UK we have 9 main kinds of wasps. However, the most common wasps we will see is the ‘yellow jacket’ or the ‘hornets.’ Hornets tend to be bigger than yellow jackets and can look quite frightening. Hornets are also more aggressive than regular wasps. Both wasps however are likely to sting if they feel threatened, so it’s important to stay calm around them and either guide them out the house or move away from them when possible.

Wasps: How to tell the difference between wasps and bees — Dalgetty Pest Control (6)

1) Look at the body

Bee’s tend to be rounder in shape than wasps, with thick middles. Bumblebees in particular are large and round.

However not all bees are completely round so make sure you look at their middles to see whether or not they have that distinctive ‘waist’ that wasps have when trying to identify them.

In addition the most noticeable feature of bees is that they are hairy, where wasps are not.

2) The colour

Although we’ve been drawing bee’s as little yellow and black blobs since we were tiny, bees aren’t actually yellow. Bee’s tend to be more orange/brown in colour and their individual stripes stand out less than those of a wasp.

3) Observe the behaviour

Bee’s tend to be passive insects, they get on with their own jobs, never really bothering humans unless they feel threatened. You will also almost always find bee’s around flowers and bushes, rather than around human food. So, when it’s bee’s around you know not to worry, your ice cream is safe!

4) Their Nest

You will usually find Bee nests in cavities such as tree hollows, roof spaces and even underground. Due to their honey making capabilities, their nests are made of hexagonal cells made of bee wax, called a honeycomb. You may even find a couple of dead bees at the entranceway, as the worker bees push out the dead or weak ones to make room in the hive.

Wasps: How to tell the difference between wasps and bees — Dalgetty Pest Control (7)

In the UK we have 250 different kinds of bees, however there are a few key kinds that we see more than others. The main groups of bees’ you will see are the Bumblebee’s, the Honeybees, the Mason bees, and the Mining Bees. These different kinds of bee’s in general are all harmless unless threatened.

Bumblebees are social insects and with 24 species of bumble bees in the UK alone, it’s not surprising that we tend to see these around our parks and flower beds. They tend to be distinguished by their shape as they are round and fuzzy. Some may have white, red or orange tails but these are all just indicators of the kind of bumblebee they are.

Honey bees are a slim bee, sand coloured with golden amber bands. Today, however it is rarer to see wild honey bees as they tend to live in domestic hives, looked after by bee keepers.

Mason Bees are another kind of popular bee and you’ll tend to find them buzzing around brick walls. They stand out as they have long hair and boxy heads. Mason bee’s actually don’t have the capability to sting so in fact are totally harmless.

Mining Bees are a solitary species that nests in the ground, and they aren’t seen as often. However, you can find them in parks, gardens and near bare earth. They can range in size, but you can usually distinguish them by their colour. Mining bees tend to either have bright ginger bodies or be completely ashy.

Although all the bees have different roles, they all have the same passive nature. Bee’s won’t harm you, if you don’t harm them. If you want to be able to identify the different kinds of bees in more detail, why not check out this article by the Woodland Trust

Wasps: How to tell the difference between wasps and bees — Dalgetty Pest Control (8)

Bees play a massive part in pollinating our crops as well as making honey and beeswax. It is important that we don’t just jump the gun and swat them down as they are an endangered species and need protected.

Knowing the difference between bees and wasps will not only help us protect them, it will also likely reduce the immediate panic when one flies by at our next barbecue.

If you find yourself having a recurring wasp issue, it is likely you have a wasp nest; for advice on finding it read...

If it is bees, contact East of Scotland Bee Keepers Association

If it is wasps contact your local Pest Controller, click here for price information on our wasp nest removal services.


How can you tell the difference between wasps and bees? ›

Bees are often confused with wasps because they have a similar shape. However, wasps have distinct yellow/black bands around the abdomen whereas bees have a more non-descript light brown/yellow colour. Honey bees are social insects and live in a nest which may contain several thousand workers.

How do pest control get rid of wasps? ›

To treat this type of problem most professional pest controllers have a fogging machine which uses a liquid insecticide and is sprayed into the loft area via the machine. The liquid is dispersed as a very fine mist and will treat the entire loft area.

Is there a bee that looks like a wasp? ›

Honey bees are wasp shaped, but have fur on their thorax. They come in many colours from yellowy golden brown to almost black and variations of these in bands on their body in between. They live in large colonies which can commonly contain over 20,000 individuals, and survive through the winter on their honey.

Do bees or wasps make nests in trees? ›

Wasps will often build their nests in trees, inside lofts, on the edges of roofs and in sheds or garages. If you're particularly unlucky, the nest may actually be inside your home. There have been reports of them being found in the corners of quieter rooms and even inside wardrobes.

How do I identify a wasp? ›

Wasp Identification Guide

Wasps have 2 sets of wings and 6 legs. They have antennae and "pinched-in" or hourglass waists. They also have chewing mouthparts (mandibles) to chew prey and other food sources. Female wasps have stingers (ovipositors) which are used to lay eggs.

Is a yellow jacket a bee or a wasp? ›

Yellow jackets are a type of wasp with yellow and black markings. Most yellow jackets build their nests underground but a few species build them in trees or buildings. They are scavengers and hunters that target protein for food and are beneficial for eating insects, both dead and alive.

Will wasps return to a sprayed nest? ›

Once a nest has been thoroughly sprayed with a pesticide, it is best to leave it alone and return to remove it the next day. If there are any surviving hornets or wasps, they will return back to the nest and the residual effects of the spray will eliminate those insects as well.

How does vinegar get rid of wasps? ›

Prepare 5 ml of lemongrass, peppermint, or citronella oil with 4 ounces each of vinegar and water. Put the mixture in a hose-end sprayer and spray over the entry points of the nest. Spicy pepper – Repeat the same procedure as with the essential oils, above. Spray the mixture on the nests to get rid of wasps.

Where do wasps go when their nest is destroyed? ›

Most wasps will die during the fall season with only the queens surviving. The queens leave the nest in fall to find an overwintering spot and go dormant once the nest is no longer viable.

What looks like a wasp but doesn't sting? ›

Hoverfly (Syrphidae)

The larger species are often brightly coloured and very common. Many of these have ornate body patterns, often of black and yellow, said to mimic wasps and bees. However, they are harmless and do not sting.

What does a queen wasp look like? ›

She's the Largest in the Colony

Wasps are narrow-waisted with pointy abdomens. They can be brown, metallic blue, red or yellow. The queen wasp is much larger than the female workers and the males, called drones. She's the largest wasp in the colony, and her life's purpose is to lay eggs.

What looks like a wasp but isn t? ›

There's a good reason why some bugs disguise themselves as another insect – it tricks predators like birds into thinking they are dangerous. One example of a bug in disguise is the hoverfly, which is easily confused with a wasp.

Where do wasps go in the winter? ›

During hibernation, these females hide in discreet locations such as an attic, basement or closet. This hibernation can be difficult for wasps to survive because of the lack of food and other resources.

How do you find a hidden wasp nest? ›

You can often find wasp nests in wall cavities, roof spaces, under eaves, in bird boxes, sheds or garages. To locate a wasp nest, carefully watch the flight path of the returning worker wasps to your property or garden. This is much easier during the summer months as wasp numbers increase.

Why do wasps keep coming into my house? ›

Wasps will use any opening to gain entry to your house, be it an open window, an ajar roof tile or even through your air conditioner. Once inside, they will look for food and any place suitable for building a nest to expand their territory.

What does a regular wasp look like? ›

Wasps look similar to bees but have a few distinct differences. They have long, slender bodies with sparse hair. Wasps may be solid black, solid yellow, or bright yellow-orange or yellow and black with stripes. When wasps fly, they let their legs hang down.

How many wasps are usually in a nest? ›

A wasp nest can hold up to 10,000 wasps by the peak of the summer season whereas a hornets nest typically has anywhere from 100-700 hornets; much of which are workers. Though these larger wasp nests are uncommon, the average nest still holds up to 6,000 wasps.

What does a yellow jacket wasp look like? ›

What do Yellow Jacket Wasps look like? Yellow jackets have a distinctive thin defined waist and a body that is hairless. Their face and head are black and their body is usually patterned black and yellow. They have six legs, antennae, and elongated wings that fold laterally against their body when they are resting.

Why do wasps chase you? ›

Why Do Wasps and Yellow Jackets Chase You? Wasps and yellow jackets will chase you when they feel their nests are in danger. They step up their defense and will do anything necessary to remove the threat from the vicinity of the nest or to escape – including stinging you.

Is a wasp sting more painful than a bee? ›

Bee Sting Vs Wasp Sting: Pain

Wasps, on average, have more painful stings than bees do.

Which sting is worse hornet or wasp? ›

The strength of the venom varies among species, but hornet stings are generally more painful to humans than other wasp species, due to a large amount of acetylcholine.

How do you get rid of wasps permanently? ›

For wasps that have built nests, consider placing bait traps, glue traps, or drinking traps outside to kill them. If the wasps won't go away, consider using insecticides or hiring an exterminator to get rid of them. If you want to learn how to take down a wasp nest from an eave or tree, keep reading the article!

Where do wasps go at night? ›

On these occasions the wasps leave their nests to forage for food. But on dark nights with no moon, they remain in their nests.

Does WD 40 repel wasps? ›

You can use WD40 to get rid of any active wasp nests. The best time to do this is in the evening.

What smells will keep wasps away? ›

Research has shown that a combination of clove, geranium and lemon grass essential oils effectively repels wasps. You can combine several drops of each oil in soapy water then transferring it to a spray bottle.

What is the best wasp killer? ›

Best Wasp Sprays To Eliminate Insect Pests
  • 1 Ortho Wasp Spray.
  • 2 Spectracide Wasp Spray.
  • 3 Raid Wasp Spray.
  • 4 HARRIS Wasp Spray.
  • 5 Hot Shot Wasp Spray.
  • 6 Black Flag Wasp Spray.
  • 7 BASF Wasp Spray.
6 Jul 2022

What is a good homemade wasp killer? ›

Lemon extract is an effective wasp killer and pesticide. For the best results, combine 3 tablespoons of lemon extract and 1 cup of water. Add this solution to a plastic spray bottle for a quick, easy, and lethal insecticide.

Where do wasps go in rain? ›

Wasps hibernate in power boxes, flagpoles and anywhere else they can stay out of the rain during winter, Albright said. They're coldblooded and almost immobile at that time, but when warm weather comes, they look for spots to build nests and lay eggs.

What time of day do wasps go away? ›

Wasps are generally more active during the warmth of the day. They get less active at night and dusk. So, you are more likely to be attacked by a swarm of wasps when it's daytime and the workers are out and about and more likely to see you as a potential threat.

Will wasps sting you for no reason? ›

Wasps very rarely sting for no reason. Most often, they'll resort to plunging their venomous stinger into human flesh because they feel threatened. This happens when people (sometimes even unknowingly) get too close to a nest.

Can a wasp sting while flying? ›

Flying Insects. Outdoor workers are at risk of being stung by flying insects (bees, wasps, and hornets) and fire ants. While most stings cause only mild discomfort, some may result in severe allergic reactions that require immediate medical care and may cause death.

How do you tell if wasps are in your walls? ›

Three Signs There's a Wasp's Nest On Your Property
  1. Swarming insects. It's normal to see the odd wasp entering your property during the summer months, but larger swarms indicate a nest somewhere nearby. ...
  2. A buzzing noise. ...
  3. Visible structures.
4 Nov 2020

How long does a wasp live? ›

The lifecycle of a wasp depends on the species, but in general a worker wasps life can last from 12-22 days, while a queen can live up to a year. There are many different types of wasps in North America, paper wasps and yellowjackets being the two most common.

Are there more wasps this year 2022? ›

The wasp population is known to fluctuate year on year dependent on the season and weather changes, and due what has been an increased numbers of the insects throughout the year already thanks to the warm weather, 2022 has been dubbed the 'Year of the Wasp'.

What happens if a queen wasp dies? ›

In case the queen dies, the colony has to rear a new one from the egg or early larval stage. However among R. Marginata wasps, lost queens are replaced by one of the workers.

Can a bee and a wasp mate? ›

This is a question I get asked a lot by the hobbyist beekeeper and you should not be embarrassed to ask it, or worried you'll get hybrid bee-wasps. The short answer to bees and wasps mating is no.

What are these hovering wasps? ›

Hover flies are true flies, but they look like small bees or wasps. They are the helicopters of the insect world, often seen hovering in the air, darting a short distance, and then hovering again. These beneficial insects are valuable tools in the fight against aphids, thrips, scale insects, and caterpillars.

Are wasps attracted to light? ›

The simple answer is, yes, wasps are attracted to bright lights, which is why you'll sometimes see them buzzing around your yard at night. This doesn't always mean that you have an impending infestation but it definitely means that you need to keep a watchful eye.

What kind of wasp is 2 inches long? ›

Description: Cicada Killers are large wasps, approximately two inches in length. They are black or dark brown, with colorful yellow markings on several segments of their abdomen.

At what temperature do wasps stop flying? ›

Below 50 degrees, wasps can't fly well, and when it freezes the colony will die. Nests that are hidden in walls or attics are hardest to control.

Can you befriend a wasp? ›

Can You Successfully Tame Wasps? You can tame wasp and that's why some people keep them in small colonies as pets. If you don't cause them any harm, a wasp colony can easily recognize you're as their keeper. This is because they are able to recognize individual human beings.

Do wasps come back to the same nest every year? ›

Do wasps return to the same nest? Wasps never reuse an old nest from previous years so a large nest in the early spring and summer months is unlikely to be active. However, wasps may return to the same area and build a new nest if it's a suitable location.

How do I know if it's a bee or wasp nest? ›

If you are unsure as to whether you have a wasp's nest or bee's nest you should look carefully at the brickwork to see if they are going in or out of a single hole/air brick or investigating several holes over an area wider than one foot. Wasps will use a single hole but mortar bees will investigate several.

Where do wasps hide in your room? ›

Walls, siding, and hanging on the roof:

It means when they build their nests indoors, they will become more resourceful. Wasps will get their way inside your house even if there is little room for building their home. You may find a large number of wasp colonies near the wall cracks or sidings of the walls.

Where is the entrance to a wasps nest? ›

Difference Between a Wasp Nest and a Bee Hive
Building MaterialPreferred Location
WaspsPaper-like substance created by mixing plant fibre and saliva while chewing.Covered nest, somewhere out of sight. One entrance at the bottom of the nest.
1 more row

How do I get rid of wasps when I can't find the nest? ›

Baiting is another option you can use if you aren't able to locate a nest, or if it's in an area you can't reach with insecticide spray or dust. There are many bait and trap products available that can effectively draw wasps out of their nest. Most of these baits are more successful if the wasps are yellow jackets.

How do you stop wasps from coming back? ›

How to prevent wasp nests
  1. Remove sources of food from around your porch. ...
  2. Keep doors and windows shut. ...
  3. Place wasp-repelling plants around your home and porch. ...
  4. Check for nests. ...
  5. Seal garbage cans and cover compost piles. ...
  6. Pick up trash. ...
  7. Cover any holes on the ground.
6 Aug 2019

Are wasps more aggressive than bees? ›

Wasps are generally more aggressive than bees. They are not necessarily meaner than bees, but unlike bees, wasps do not lose their stinger — this allows them to attack more than once.

Do wasps sting or bite? ›

Unlike bees, wasps can sting multiple times because they don't lose their stinger with their sting. They will also inject a venom into your skin with their sting. Most wasp stings can be incredibly painful, especially if they surprise you.

Should wasps be killed? ›

Wasps are predators, and their prey are the types of insects and bugs that you also don't want around. Wasps happily kill flies, caterpillars, and the enemy of every gardener or farmer, the aphid. In other words, if wasps aren't bothering you, then there's no need to get rid of them.

What's the difference between a wasp sting and a bee sting? ›

Honey bees and bumble bees only sting if provoked (stood on or picked up), while wasps can be aggressive and sting more than once. Bees leave their stinger with a venom sac in your skin, but wasps do not. Most stings itch or hurt for one or two days. The swelling may last a week.

Why do wasps chase you? ›

Why Do Wasps and Yellow Jackets Chase You? Wasps and yellow jackets will chase you when they feel their nests are in danger. They step up their defense and will do anything necessary to remove the threat from the vicinity of the nest or to escape – including stinging you.

What time of day are wasps most aggressive? ›

Wasps are generally more active in the middle of the day when it's warm, and less active between dusk and dawn when temperatures are cooler. You can tell its summer by looking at the insect activity around.

What do you do if a wasp lands on you? ›

If a wasp lands on you, don't flap at it or try to brush it off – it will sting you. Just stay still and let it fly off in its own time. A wasp trapped in clothing is more difficult to deal with because any slight movement can press garments against it.

Can a dead wasp sting you? ›

Yes, wasps can sting you even when they are dead.

If you were to carefully pick the dead wasp up, place it into the palm of your hand and hold it still then it's not going to be able to sting you. The dead wasp will have no reflex to sting you.

What is the fastest way to heal a wasp sting? ›

Wash the area well with soap and water. Apply a cold or ice pack wrapped in a thin cloth to help reduce swelling and pain (10 minutes on and 10 minutes off for a total of 30 to 60 minutes). If the sting happens on an arm or leg, keep the arm or leg raised to help reduce swelling.

Do you put vinegar on a wasp sting? ›

Vinegar. Much like apple cider vinegar, the best way to treat wasp stings using vinegar is to apply it to a piece of cotton wool and place it on the sting. You can also use a cotton swab soaked in vinegar and rub it on the insect sting.

Will killing a wasp attract more? ›

All in all, killing a wasp won't necessarily attract more but will make nearby wasps more aggressive. As a result, you should avoid confronting wasps head on, especially if you are near one of their nests.

Will wasps return to a sprayed nest? ›

Once a nest has been thoroughly sprayed with a pesticide, it is best to leave it alone and return to remove it the next day. If there are any surviving hornets or wasps, they will return back to the nest and the residual effects of the spray will eliminate those insects as well.

Do wasps remember you? ›

Golden paper wasps have demanding social lives. To keep track of who's who in a complex pecking order, they have to recognize and remember many individual faces. Now, an experiment suggests the brains of these wasps process faces all at once—similar to how human facial recognition works.

Should you squeeze a wasp sting? ›

Never use tweezers to remove a stinger, as squeezing it can cause more venom to release into your skin. Wash the sting with soap and water. Apply a cold pack to reduce swelling.

What hurts more a wasp or hornet sting? ›

Nevertheless, the sting of the hornet hurts more anyway. The hornet is much larger and the diameter and length of its sting are larger. In addition, the sting has no hooks and that is why the hornet can sting someone several times (this also applies to wasps, but only the females have poison that causes pain).

What does wasp venom do to you? ›

People who have large local reactions may be allergic to wasp stings, but they don't experience life-threatening symptoms, such as anaphylactic shock. Large local reactions to wasp stings include extreme redness and swelling that increases for two or three days after the sting. Nausea and vomiting can also occur.

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