Bee ID

This page is dedicated to helping people identify what they are seeing when they suspect honey bees are on their property.  it is very common for many people to mis-identify yellow jackets as bees.

Honey Bee:

Honey bee ( Apis Mellifera aka “European honey bee)

From Texas A&M University:

The honey bee (above) has a hairy body compared to the wasp (below). Pollen is the only source of protein for honey bees and their hairy bodies are an adaptation to pollen grain collection. Another major difference is that a honey bee is able to sting only one time and dies soon after. The honey bee stinger has small hooks that cause the stinger to remain imbedded in the victim. The sting apparatus is pulled from the bee’s body when she moves away causing massive abdominal rupture and death. A wasp has a smooth stinger and may sting many times.

Honey Bee Facts:

Honey bees are considered to be, in general, quite docile and are only aggressive when defending their nest or are attacked.  Honey bees can only sting once and die doing so.  Honey bee nests are persistent and can be populated by the same colony for up to seven years and then be re-populated by a new colony after that.

Because honey bees are such efficient and effective pollinators and due to their general docile nature, they are often “kept” by beekeepers for the purposes of pollination and honey production.

When honey bee nests are in urban/public traffic areas, they can be seen as a pest, especially if their nest is in an area that is easily disturbed.  In these cases, it is important to remove the entire nest. If the nest cannot be accessed they may require extermination. If at all possible, relocating the entire nest live to a new nest or hive that is away from public access is preferred.

Western Yellow Jacket

Western Yellow Jacket – ‘Vespula Pensylvanica’

Western Yellow jacket, top view

From Wikipedia:

V. pensylvanica is a predatory species that feeds on a wide range of invertebrate taxa (and occasionally even on slugs[2]) and this has great potential for negative impact on the native fauna in insular habitats.[1] In its genus, it is one of the few species that also has a scavenging habit as opposed to a strictly predatory habit and is thus considered a major pest to humankind.

Eastern Yellow Jacket:

Eastern Yellow Jacket (Vespula Maculifrons)


From Wikipedia:

V. maculifrons is found in eastern North America and throughout the Great Plains region of the United States.[1] This type of yellow jacket nests in the ground,[5] although unusual nest locations can occur above the ground in urban environments such as hollow walls, attics, and other artificial spaces

Yellow Jacket Facts:

Yellow jacket nests only survive for 1 season. after the first major frost of Autumn, there are only a few reproductive females and males left to overwinter and seek out and start new nests the following Spring.  Yellow jackets rarely use the same nest again.

Yellow jackets are considered by many as beneficial insects because they are predatory, keeping the populations of other insects down as food for their larvae.  They are not seen as being as efficient a pollinator as honey bees and are too aggressive to be ‘kept’ as honey bees.

However, when yellow jackets nest in urban areas, particularly public areas, they are considered a pest.  This is primarily due to their aggressiveness.  In the interest of public safety, when yellow jacket nests are in such locations, it is important to remove them immediately.

“Sweat Bees”

From Wikipedia…

Sweat bee is the common name for any bees that are attracted to the salt in human sweat. In its strict application, the name refers to members of the Halictidae, a large family of bees that are common in most of the world except Australia and Southeast Asia, where they are only a minor faunistic element. In the United States, the common species are black, brown, red, or metallic green, and sometimes with yellow markings, and usually 1/4 to 1/2 inch (4-10 mm) in size. Their attraction to sweat makes them a nuisance, as they will sting if squeezed or squashed against one’s flesh.


Bumble Bee:

From Wikipedia…

Bumblebees are social insects that are characterised by black and yellow body hairs, often in bands. However, some species have orange or red on their bodies, or may be entirely black.[1] Another obvious (but not unique) characteristic is the soft nature of the hair (long, branched setae), called pile, that covers their entire body, making them appear and feel fuzzy.

Carpenter Bee:

From Wikipedia…

In the United States, there are two eastern species, Xylocopa virginica, and Xylocopa micans, and three other species that are primarily western in distribution, Xylocopa varipuncta, Xylocopa tabaniformis orpifex and Xylocopa californica. X. virginica is by far the more widely distributed species.[3] Some are often mistaken for a bumblebee species, as they can be similar in size and coloration, though most carpenter bees have a shiny abdomen, while in bumblebees the abdomen is completely clothed with dense hair. Males of some species have a white or yellow face, where the females do not; males also often have much larger eyes than the females, which relates to their mating behavior. Male bees are often seen hovering near nests, and will approach nearby animals. However, males are harmless since they do not have a stinger.[4] Female carpenter bees are capable of stinging, but they are docile and rarely sting unless caught in the hand or otherwise directly provoked.