Differences Between Hornets, Bees, and Wasps

Portland OR - Beaverton OR - Lake Oswego OR - Vancouver WA

hornet on nest with Summit Pest Management in Portland OR Vancouver WA

With summer on its way, we’re all eager to get outside a little more to enjoy the sun. But, with the warmer weather also comes three painful pests—bees, hornets, and wasps. While the three types of stinging insects may seem the same at first, they aren’t quite the same. Understanding the differences between hornets, bees, and wasps can help you predict their behavior and learn which ones are more dangerous to have flying around.

Common Stinging Insects in the Pacific Northwest

While there are nearly 4,000 species of bees and wasps in the United States, there are just a few that commonly roam around the the Pacific Northwest area. Most infestations here are caused by one of these six types of stinging insects: 

  • Paper Wasps: Paper wasps are slender insects with long, narrow bodies and distinctive yellow and black markings. They build open, umbrella-shaped nests out of paper-like material, often found under eaves, in shrubs, or inside attics. Though they aren’t generally aggressive, they will defend their nest if threatened. 
  • Bald-Faced Hornets: These are large, black insects with white markings on their faces and bodies. They build large, paper-like nests with a teardrop shape, commonly found suspended from trees or attached to buildings. Bald-faced hornets are a very aggressive species that should be avoided if they’re nearby.
  • European Hornets: European hornets are generally less aggressive than other hornet species but will sting in defense of their nests. They have very large bodies with yellow and brown markings, and they build enclosed nests out of a paper-like material. 
  • Mud Daubers: Mud daubers are slender wasps with elongated bodies and narrow waists. They build tube-like nests out of mud, often attached to walls, rocks, or other surfaces. Unlike other wasps, they are solitary insects—and, despite their aggressive appearance, they generally try to avoid humans. 
  • Honey Bees: Honey bees are large insects with fuzzy bodies and varying shades of yellow and brown markings. They construct wax comb nests, often found in trees, hives, or man-made structures. Though they aren’t as aggressive as some other types of stinging insects, they may sting if they feel frightened. 
  • Carpenter Bees: Carpenter bees are solitary insects that can cause damage to wooden structures through their nesting behavior. While males may exhibit territorial behavior, females are equipped with stingers but are not aggressive unless provoked.

Are Bees, Hornets, and Wasps the Same?

While bees, hornets, and wasps all belong to the order Hymenoptera and share certain similarities, they are distinct groups of insects with unique characteristics and behaviors. Some key differences between the three include:

  • Bees only eat nectar and plant matter
  • Bees produce honey, while wasps and hornets do not
  • Hornets and wasps consume meat and other insects
  • Wasps construct nests with chewed wood pulp
  • Hornets are larger than wasps but otherwise very similar

What Do Bees, Hornets, and Wasps Look Like?

One of the easiest ways to tell bees, wasps, and hornets apart is by the way they look. Though they may seem very similar at first, there are a couple of key differences between their appearances that can help you determine which is buzzing nearby:

  • Bees: Have large, fuzzy bodies that are meant to collect pollen. Most are black and yellow in color. 
  • Hornets: Very large insects with smooth bodies and distinctive color patterns, usually featuring black, yellow, or brown markings. 
  • Wasps: Slightly smaller than hornets, but also with a smooth body. Most have very narrow waists and, similar to hornets, usually have black, yellow, or brown coloration.

How Do Bees, Hornets, and Wasps Act?

Bees, known for their role as pollinators, play a vital role in ecosystems by transferring pollen from one flower to another, facilitating the reproduction of flowering plants. As they forage for nectar and pollen, bees inadvertently collect and distribute pollen on their bodies, enabling plants to produce seeds and fruits. 

In contrast, hornets and wasps are hunters, preying on other insects for food and sustenance. Hornets, with their large size and formidable hunting skills, capture a variety of prey, including flies, caterpillars, and other insects. They play a crucial role in regulating insect populations and maintaining ecological balance within their habitats. Similarly, wasps exhibit predatory behavior, with some species actively hunting and immobilizing prey to feed themselves or provision nests for their offspring. 

Are Bees as Dangerous as Hornets and Wasps?

Bees aren’t considered as dangerous as hornets and wasps for two main reasons: they aren’t generally aggressive unless they sense a threat to their nest, and they can only sting once before dying. That said, a nasty encounter with a bee’s nest can be incredibly painful, and for some people, fatal. Regardless of what type of stinging insect you have on your property, it’s important to consult a professional bee removal company right away. 

If you’re worried about stinging insects on your property, don’t hesitate to call Summit Pest Management for help! Our wasp removal team is equipped to safely and quickly remove a nest in no time. We use techniques that prioritize your safety and preserve the environment. To learn more about our process or get started, give us a call today!

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Differences Between Hornets, Bees, and Wasps in Portland OR & Vancouver WA

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