The difference between bees wasps and hornets.

Bee vs Wasp vs Hornet | Your Guide to Stinging Insects

April 16, 2021

Summer and fall months bring a lot of wonderful things such as pool days, flowers, grilling, football season and more. But what many of us forget about are the abundance of wasps, bees and hornets that make their way onto our property throughout this time of year. Though all three are relatively harmless unless provoked, it is good to know the differences between bees, wasps and hornets. That’s why our pest experts at Preferred Pest Control reveal everything you need to accurately identify the differences between bees, wasps and hornets.

difference between bees wasps and hornets.

Bee, Wasp and Hornet Identification

Most of us fear the sound of buzzing around our heads and the chance of getting stung by a bee, wasp or hornet. But getting close enough to see the physical features of these pests can significantly help you identify your yard guests. Discover some of the distinct physical features to identify for accurate bee, wasp and hornet identification.

What Do Honey Bees Look Like?

Honey bees are oval shaped, typically about 15 mm long and are usually light brown in color with yellow and brown bands around their bodies. Though the honey bee appearance does differ from species to species, most honey bees will have dark to light patterns on their body. One of the primary differences about the honey bee’s appearance compared to wasps and hornets is their fuzzy, rounded bodies. This is easy to decipher from the narrow and smooth bodies of hornets and wasps.

What Does the Yellow Jacket Wasp Look Like?

Contrary to the honey bee, wasps are smooth and thin with a pinched waist. Their bright yellow and black colored stripes on their body are a unique feature that makes these insects stand apart from their close relatives. At about 12 mm in length, wasps are typically smaller than the honey bee and the bald faced hornet.

What Does the Bald Faced Hornet Look Like?

With mostly black bodies, bald faced hornets don’t have the typical stripes that most people associate with bees and wasps. Their most distinctive feature is the white pattern on their face, which is commonly used to identify them from other wasp species. Hornets have smooth and thin bodies, and are much larger than other wasps at about 19 mm in length.

Identifying Bee vs Wasp vs Hornet Nests

Wouldn’t it be more calming to know you have the knowledge to identify the stinging insects by simply looking at their nest? Our experts are here to show you how so you can explore your infestation from a safe distance.

Honey Bee Hives and Behavior

When in the wild, honey bees choose to build their hives in tree holes or on rock crevices. Honey bee hives are open-faced and made from wax produced by the honey bee workers. These workers take the wax from their abdomen and chew it until the wax becomes soft. Then the workers mold the wax and begin to form the hive.

Since they are social creatures, honey bees choose to live in colonies. Though honey bees are essentially harmless, it is important to remove them from your property if their hive gets too close to your home. If left undisturbed, honey bee colonies can grow to the thousands. In fact, colonies typically contain 60,000 workers alone. Honey bees are drawn to fields or gardens that have an abundance of flowers. Once they find and consume the nectar and pollen, they will begin to convert it to honey.

Dealing with bees can be frightening, especially if you’re unsure of how to handle them. That’s why we encourage you to contact our professionals at Preferred Pest for your bee control services. Our bee control experts do not recommend exterminating the hives since honey bees are an important pollinator, but we will refer the customer to a local beekeeper who can relocate the hive in a safe and effective way.

Fun Facts About Bees

  • Their stripes warn other predators that they sting.
  • The queen bee can lay up to 2,000 eggs per day!
  • Honey bees can reach a flight speed of 20 mph.

What Is The Difference Between a Wasp and Bee?

While both wasps and bees use stinging as a defense mechanism, bees can only sting once. When a bee stings, the barbed end of the stinger attached to the poison sac is ripped from the bee, killing it. Wasps on the other hand can sting multiple times. Their nests have many differences as well that can make deciphering the two much easier than when looking at their physical appearances.

What Does A Wasp Nest Look Like?

The nest of a yellow jacket wasp, like the honey bee, is open-faced. Made from papery materials created by the wasps, these nests are most commonly underground or in protected areas. It is important you keep in mind that these insects are capable of stinging multiple times, which is why many people are scared of wasps in Iowa. Fortunately, they are usually only aggressive when provoked. However, it is still a good idea to let a pest professional handle your wasp infestation. Wasps are considered both social and solitary pests. Just like honey bees, wasps can live in colonies with numbers that can grow into the thousands. Wasp colonies can contain up to 5,000 workers, however the Queen alone will hibernate and survive the winter months.

When it comes to removing wasps nests, we strongly encourage you to call our experienced wasp exterminators at Preferred Pest Control to avoid getting stung multiple times. Our wasp exterminator will get rid of the problem in the best way possible so you can feel worry-free and enjoy a summer of playing in the sun.

Fun Facts About Wasps

  • Though some wasps are predatory, others are parasitic. Parasitic wasps are known for laying their eggs within the bodies of living creatures to feed their larvae.
  • Like honey bees, their stripes warn predators that wasps will sting when provoked.
  • There are 17 different yellow jacket species in North America.
  • Yellow jackets release pheromones that alert other wasps when under attack.

What Is The Difference Between a Wasp and a Hornet?

Hornets are actually a subset species of wasps, although many people refer to wasps as hornets and vice versa. You can use these common behaviors of the bald-faced hornet to differentiate them from wasps:

  • Hornets are usually much more aggressive than wasps, while wasps typically only attack when provoked.
  • Most wasps can be identified by their bright yellow and black coloring, however, the bald-faced hornet is mostly black with a unique white pattern on its face.
  • Wasps and hornets both make their nests out of similar materials, but a bald-faced hornets nest is closed off instead of open-faced.
  • The hornet’s body is slightly more round than a slender yellow jacket or paper wasp.

What Does a Hornets Nest Look Like?

Bald-faced hornets form aerial nests, most commonly in undisturbed areas such as porch overhangs, trees and bushes. It is important that you be on the lookout for these pests while out in the yard or working around your home as they can grow large in numbers. In fact, the easiest way to detect an infestation is when you begin to notice a lot of activity and swarming. Bald-faced hornet nests and colonies can grow to about 400 to 700 workers, however only the Queen survives the winter. Bald-faced hornets can deliver multiple powerful stings, making it extremely important that you acknowledge their aggressive tendencies.

When it comes to handling these aggressive insects and their nests, the best and safest thing you can do is call professional help. Our exterminators at Preferred Pest Control are fully prepared to treat your bald-faced hornet infestation. Please, don’t hesitate to call us if you come across a hornets nest on your property.

Fun Facts About Hornets

  • Hornets are a small subset of the wasp species.
  • The paper-like substance of the nest is made of chewed up wood.
  • The average nest size is about the size of a football, but can expand to basketball size as the colony grows.

Leading Des Moines Metro Pest Control Service

Are you ready to protect your property from these summertimes swarmers? If so, Preferred Pest’s bee, wasp and hornet services team is ready to help. It is important to let the pest professionals take care of the situation. Our experienced technicians will remove nests while ensuring the problem doesn’t return. Feel free to give us a call at (515) 415-5550 or schedule an appointment online!


This blog has been updated to include more information about hornets. Check out the previous infographic that compared bees and wasps.

The Difference Between Honey Bees and Wasps.

difference between bees and wasps.