- Stinging Insects 101
- How to identify the pest, the nest and the threat
- Types of Stinging Insects
- How to identify European wasps
- Look for these distinctive characteristics
- Similar looking insects
- Sting first aid
- Everything You Should Know About Sweat Bee Killing, Trapping & Repelling
- How To Get Rid Of Sweat Bees: Should You Kill, Catch Or Repel Them?
- How to Trap Sweat Bees with the Best Sweat Bee Catcher
- Seicosy (TM) Non-toxic Wasp Trap, Sting Free, Trap Bee, Wasp, Hornet, Yellow Jacket, Fruit Fly and More – The Best Selling Reusable Bee Trap
- How to Repel Sweat Bees with the Best Sweat Bee Repellent
- Hot Shot 5580 No Pest Strip Unscented Hanging Vapor Insect Repellent
- How to Kill a Single Sweat Bee with the Best Insecticide
- Bee and Wasp Spray: Professional Freeze 17.5 oz
- Best Sweat Bee Control Products Comparison Chart
- 3 Homemade Ways to Get Rid Of Sweat Bees
- 7 Tips to Protect Yourself and Your Garden from Sweat Bees
- The grass-carrying wasp: A solitary wasp that builds nests in unusual places
- How To Kill Wasps – How To Eliminate Wasps From Your Yard
- Wasp Deterrent
- How to Get Rid of Wasps
- How to Kill Wasps
- Wasp Prevention
- Early Intervention
- Peaceful Coexistence
- Wasp Traps
- Battling Yellow Jackets
- Wasp Control Don’ts
- Identify a Bird holding a Wasp?
- Why do wasps sting birds?
- Wasps are generally just a nuisance for birds
- A few small wasps won’t bother birds
- Can Wasps kill Birds?
- Do Birds eat Wasps
- Do Bees sting Birds?
- So Finally
- What Eats Wasps: Natural Wasp Enemies
- Wasps – Do They Make Honey, What Do They Eat, and More
- Getting Rid of Wasps
- IS THAT INSECT A BEE, A WASP OR A FLY?
Stinging Insects 101
How to identify the pest, the nest and the threat
Stinging insects such as various types of wasps, yellowjackets, hornets and bees, are common summertime pests and their stings can be more than just a painful nuisance. The National Pest Management Association reports that stinging insects send more than half a million people to the emergency room every year. Those with allergies to stings are most at risk, although anyone can be affected if a large number of stinging insects swarm and sting at once.
One way to protect yourself and your family from types of stinging insects like wasps and hornets this summer is to ensure your property is free from hives and nests. On a routine basis, walk around the exterior of your home, paying special attention to overhangs, eaves, the underside of porches and decks for nests. Also inspect shrubs, trees, sheds and other structures. If you do find a nest on your property, do not attempt to remove it on your own. The colony can become defensive and attack en masse. Instead, contact a licensed pest control professional who will be able to relocate or remove the hive in a safe manner.
Some stinging insects pose more serious threats than others. To determine the risk to your family, you will need to identify the type of insect, especially for wasps and yellowjackets. A trained pest professional will be able to properly identify a pest species and its threats, but you can also use this guide to help determine the species:
Types of Stinging Insects
- Pest: Bumble bees are between ¼ – 1 inch in size, have black and yellow markings, and an overall fuzzy appearance.
- Nest: Bumble bees build their nests out of pollen clumps, usually in the ground or a dense grass clump, and often in an abandoned mouse nest.
- Threat: Bumble bees are considered a beneficial insect because they pollinate flowers. However, they can sting. If a nest is located in or near a structure, then control is necessary.
- Pest: Carpenter bees are between 1/2 – 1 inch in size. They resemble bumble bees, but the top of their abdomen is largely bare and shiny.
- Nest: Carpenter bees do not live in nests or colonies. They bore into wood, where they make galleries for rearing their young. Carpenter bees tend to prefer decaying or weathered wood to new or painted wood.
- Threat: Carpenter bees are a serious property threat, and can cause structural damage over time if they are not eliminated. Male carpenter bees can be territorial and may hover in front of one’s face aggressively, but they have no stinger and these actions are merely for show. Female carpenter bees do have a potent sting, which is rarely used.
- Pest: Honeybees are between 1/2-5/8 inch in size and orangish brown or black in color.
- Nest: Honeybees are social insects and live as colonies in hives, with mature colonies of 20,000 – 80,000 individuals.
- Threat: Honeybees are not aggressive and do not search for something to attack. Instead, they are defensive and will attack only whatever seems to threaten the colony.
- Pest: Bald-faced hornets are largely black in color, with a mostly white face.
- Nest: Bald-faced hornets build aerial nests out of paper carton. The nests are usually in exposed locations, often on trees, utility poles, overhangs or other structures. The nests can be quite large, growing to 14 inches in diameter and 24 inches in length.
- Threat: Bald-faced hornets are considered beneficial insects because they control many pest insect species. However, if their nest is located near a structure, control is warranted.
- Pest: European hornets are large in size, between ¾ and more than 1 inch. They are brown with yellow abdominal stripes and a pale face.
- Nest: European hornets build paper carton nests that are usually covered in a brown paper envelope as protection. Typically, the nests can be found in hollow trees, barns, out buildings, hollow walls of houses and attics.
- Threat: European hornets are considered beneficial insects because they control many pest species. However, if their nest is located near a structure, control is warranted.
- Pest: Mud daubers are long and slender, usually black in color, and may have pale markings or a metallic luster.
- Nest: Mud daubers are solitary wasps and do not live in colonies. Females construct nests of mud. Many short mud tubes, usually about 1 inch long, are constructed side by side. They frequently build nests under eaves, porch ceilings, in garages and sheds, barns, protected building walls and attics.
- Threat: Mud daubers are considered beneficial insects because they control spiders. However, if their nest is located near human activity, control is warranted.
- Pest: Despite their name, velvet ants are not ants at all, but are actually types of wasps. Female velvet ants are very hairy and black in color, sometimes with areas of bright red, orange, yellow or white. Males are less hairy and duller in color, but have wings, unlike females.
- Nest: Velvet ants often live in the types of nests used by wasps and ground-nesting bees. In other cases, they build nests in bare or sandy soil.
- Threat: Velvet ants are sometimes called “cow killers” because of their very potent sting. However, only female velvet ants have stingers.
- Pest: The paper wasp, a type of wasp species, is brownish in color with yellow or reddish markings.
- Nest: Paper wasps get their name from the paper-like material of which they construct their nest. Paper wasp nests are often umbrella-like in shape and are never enclosed in an envelope. Nests are often found hanging from twigs and branches of trees and shrubs, as well as porch ceilings, door frames, eaves, deck floor joints, railings, etc.
- Threat: If a nest is touched, there is a high probability you will get stung, although paper wasps are typically not an aggressive type of wasp. Paper wasps are considered beneficial insects because they control many pest insect species. However, if their nest is located near a structure, control is warranted.
- Pest: Yellowjackets have a yellow and black color pattern and are between 3/8 – 5/8 inches.
- Nest: Yellowjackets live in nests constructed of paper carton, which can grow to be basketball-sized. One nest will contain a number of rounded paper combs, attached one below another and covered with a many-layered envelope. Depending on the species, the nest may be near the ground, such as on plant roots, logs or timber, or aerial and attached to shrubs, bushes, houses, garages or sheds.
- Threat: Yellowjackets are slow to sting, unless their nests are threatened. Yellowjackets are considered beneficial insects because they control many pest insect species. However, if their nest is located near a structure, control is warranted.
Remember, it is not advised to attempt to remove a stinging insect nest on your own, and doing so can be extremely dangerous. Instead, work with a licensed pest professional to access your property and the nest, to identify the type of stinging insect (like wasps or other dangerous stingers), and to determine the best way to eliminate the threat to your family.
How to identify European wasps
Suspect European wasp SIGHTINGS MUST BE REPORTED to the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development.
Every year, fertilised European wasp queens are accidentally transported into our state in freight, cargo and vehicles from Eastern Australia. They must be detected and erradicated if we are to remain free of this pest.
Look for these distinctive characteristics
The European wasp has distinct behaviours among wasp species and other insects in Western Australia, which make it easier to identify.
Wasps scavenging on human food and drinks
Wasps scavenging on pet food
Wasps flying in and out of a single hole in the ground
(90% of nests are hidden underground)
Wasps flying with raised legs
(all other wasps dangle their legs)
(similar looking paper wasps have orange/yellow antennae)
Did you know that…
- European wasps are opportunistic predators and scavengers, eating dead animals, live insects, fruits, processed human and pet food (particularly meat and fish based food) and garbage. They are also attracted to sugars found in fruit and drinks.
- European wasps make numerous trips between the location of the food source and the nest.
Similar looking insects
Because of their yellow and black stripes, several wasps, bees and flies can be mistaken for European wasps.
European wasp comparison photo showing other species commonly mistaken for European wasps (click to enlarge)
Native flower wasps (Families Tiphiidae and Scoliidae) are much larger. These harmless solitary wasps are beneficial pollinators. These solitary wasps only come together during the mating season.
Yellow paper wasps are bright yellow and black. Paper wasps differ being slightly longer and thinner (more wasp-like) and have orange-brown antennae. Unlike European wasps, paper wasps hover with their back legs hanging down.
Honey bees are about the same size as European wasps, but have black legs, are hairier and are dull brown-orange in colour, as opposed to bright yellow and black.
Native Bembix wasps are smaller than European wasps and their antennae are shorter and thinner and their eyes larger. In a lot of Bembix species, the eyes are a yellow-green and the body colour is closer to a lime-green yellow.
Hover flies are smaller than European wasps and they ‘hover’ when flying. Their antennae aren’t easily noticeable (very short and stubby) and their large eyes meet together. They have one pair of obvious wings as opposed to two pairs of the European wasp (large pair and short pair).
European wasp or yellow paper wasp?
Yellow paper wasps are easy to confuse with European wasps. They are very common and widespread in WA and are frequently seen nesting in guttering, under fence capping or attached to bushes. Paper wasps are often seen visiting flowers, ponds or water taps. Look for their distictive papery honeycomb nest, or note the colour of the antennae and the position of the legs when they fly.
European wasp and paper wasp comparison next to a 50 cent coin (click to enlarge)
Differences between European wasps and paper wasps
Workers: about 15mm long (size of a bee)
15–19mm long (longer than a bee)
Stout body like a bee
Longer and thinner than a bee. Narrow waist
Bright yellow and black
All black (see picture above)
Yellow-orange (see picture above)
Legs held close to body during flight. Fly very quickly, generally do not hover
Back legs dangle down during flight. Often seen hovering around bushes, over lawns and around water sources
|Food||European wasps are scavengers feeding from pet food, meat or vegetable scraps, meat products, fish or dead insects||Paper wasps feed on insects including caterpillars, flies, beetle larvae and nectar|
Differences between European wasp and paper wasp nests
Comparison of European wasp and paper wasp nests and their locations (click to enlarge)
European wasp nest
Paper wasp nest
Often seen. Usually above ground
Usually below ground with the entrance appearing as a hole in the ground. On rare occasions they may be found in a roof or wall cavity. It will have a busy entrance hole with many wasps entering and exiting per minute
Under fence capping or roof tiles, also under eaves and in dense shrubs. Sometimes in hollow steel piping and guttering
Large. Growing in summer to be the size of a basketball or bigger
Golf ball to crumpet sized. Rarely as big as a dinner plate
Round or football shaped with an outer covering of insulating material that looks like grey paper mache or egg carton material
Single flat layer of papery honeycomb cells. Grey-brown in colour, often with some white-capped cells
|Note||REPORT – Do Not Treat||Follow paper wasp control instructions|
Sting first aid
For information on first aid treatment of wasp stings, please visit the Australian Health Direct website or contact the Western Australian Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26.
Report suspect sightings. Taking photos and submitting for identification via MyPestGuide™ Reporter or email them to PaDIS is the quickest avenue for ID. Alternatively, phone 08 9368 3080 to speak with our Pest and Disease Information Service.
NOTE: Your report should include: What you saw , where you saw it, and when it happened.
Can you tell the difference between wasps and hover flies? Many people cannot, and it’s not surprising either – they look quite similar. We’re in the middle of the peak season for hover flies, so plenty of people are getting spooked by their appearance. Here’s how to tell the difference between wasps and hover flies, so you know whether to keep a wide berth or not.
What do hover flies look like?
Chances are, you won’t get the opportunity to look at a hover fly up close for a long time. That’s why lots of people just avoid them. They have the same black and yellow colouring on their bodies as wasps do too, making it even harder to tell them apart.
Have you noticed that wasps look as though their bodies are hinged in the middle? They’ve got the head and upper body, followed by a tiny waist and the remainder of their body – the part with the sting in the tail. Hover flies are more compact and chunky, with no defined mid-section.
Now, you’re not going to hang around long enough to check the differences between the two. For instance, hover flies have short antenna, whereas wasps have longer ones. But are you going to get close enough to measure them? No.
So, how can you tell whether you’re being bothered by a wasp or a hover fly?
Fortunately, there is one way to tell them apart. The clue is in the name. Hover flies do just that – they hover. The next time you see a wasp in your garden, observe its behaviour as it goes from one plant to the next. It never hovers – it simply flies from A to B as it goes about its business.
That’s not the case with hover flies. They do indeed hover in one spot in the air. If you see am insect hovering like this, and it’s coloured the same as a wasp… don’t worry. Leave it be because it won’t harm you. It’s a hover fly.
Where do they build their nests?
If you have a nest somewhere close to your property, perhaps in the eaves, it’s likely to be a wasps’ nest. Hover flies tend to build their nests in trees or other appealing spots in the garden.
So, now you know what might have created that nest you’ve got. If you want confirmation, call in the experts today to find a solution.
Everything You Should Know About Sweat Bee Killing, Trapping & Repelling
About different types of bees: Read here.
Where do sweat bees nest?
Sweat bees are soil nesting bees: they usually nest and live in the earthen burrows in sunny dry areas, but sometimes their nests can be found in soft wood. Some are semi-social or communal, while others are solitary. Because they are attracted to sweat and water, they are often located close to people working outdoors or, for example, near a pool. There are especially a lot of them in humid jungle climate conditions, as well as on meadows and in the orchards.
When does the sweat bees’ activity peak?
As a rule, sweat bees can be encountered from Match to the end of summer. In certain states, though, for instance, in Georgia, the activity of several sweat bee species peaks from March to October.
Do sweat bees sting?
Yes, females do stings, but in general sweat bees aren’t considered aggressive. According to the information from the University of Kentucky entomologists, they don’t attack humans for the sole purpose of stinging. They merely land on your skin to collect the sweat drops. If you attempt to attack them, they will sting you as they will feel the danger. The same will happen if you keep them in your fist or try to destroy their nest. If you don’t touch the bees, they won’t hurt you, as sweat is their only target.
How dangerous are sweat bee stings?
Sweat bee stings are not dangerous and stung people hardly feel any pain. But this pain still exists and it even has its own rating. Thanks to Justin Schmidt, an American entomologist of the Southwestern Biological Institute and University of Arizona, today the humanity has quite a fascinating scale of various insects’ bites pain. According to Mr. Schmidt, sweat bee stings have the least pain level which is equal to 1 as your skin can barely feel it. “A tiny spark has singed a single hair on your arm”. Still, keep in mind that allergy reactions to these bees are known to happen, just like with any other insect/bee sting or bite.
Is it true that sweat bees are beneficial insects?
Yes, the entomologists frp, around the world confirm that all kinds of bees including the sweat bees are essential to the ecosystem functioning. The latter, in particular, play an important role in the pollination of plants and crops scattered over long distances. The University of Florida entomologists consider stone fruits, pomme fruits, alfalfa, sunflower etc to be such crops. Sweat bees are generalists and will forage on a wide variety of plants. In recent years, people have become more aware of the sweat bees’ ability to save crops and tend to keep them alive.
Still, if sweat bees have become a real misfortune for you, deal with them even despite their usefulness.
How To Get Rid Of Sweat Bees: Should You Kill, Catch Or Repel Them?
So, in which cases does getting rid of sweat bees become a necessity?
- If the best have nested on your property and one-time attacks have become permanent.
- If you like travelling to in the hot humid jungle where sweat bees can stick around you almost from the outset.
- If you work or workout outdoors and the bees distract and disturb you.
- If you are allergic to bees and getting rid of them is vital.
What is better: killing on contact, repelling or catching sweat bees?
Killing on contact means instant elimination of single sweat bees with insecticides.
Catching is large-scale trapping and killing the bees, and is the most desperate measure for those who are unfortunate enough to share their property with the sweat bees nesting there. It is suitable for the extreme cases where the sweat bees at your place have become too intrusive.
Repelling is the most humane and lenient towards the useful sweat bees control method. Repellents can protect you from the bees circling around or when camping, when you don’t have the time to install proper traps.
Below we will describe all three methods to you, and it will be up to you to decide which one works best for you.
How to Trap Sweat Bees with the Best Sweat Bee Catcher
To get rid of sweat bees, you neither have to look for a special sweat bee trap, nor buy a random one. Carpenter bee traps, for instance, are not suitable for getting rid of sweat bees. Various species have different types of nesting behavior and so the wooden traps that are specifically designed for catching the former bee species are used. To catch sweat bees you’d better buy an ordinary bee trap (today there are few of them available on the market). For our review we have chosen the best one.
Seicosy (TM) Non-toxic Wasp Trap, Sting Free, Trap Bee, Wasp, Hornet, Yellow Jacket, Fruit Fly and More – The Best Selling Reusable Bee Trap
This is the quickest and least expensive (Check current price) ready-to-use trap for getting rid of sweat bees. The plastic trap comes empty. You just need to fill it with a sweet solution, which will play the role of sweat bee bait. You can use water with sugar, honey, syrup, juice, and a mixture of soap solution, fruit nectar – these are only few recipes from the experienced buyers. Fill the sweat bee trap with this solution to the level of the lower hole and hang it where the bees swarm: the porch or a tree, for example, but not too high. Bees can fly inside, being lured with the sweet smell, but won’t be able to get out and will drown.
All you have to do is empty the trap as necessary and re-fill it with a sweet solution. It is a simple, convenient, and cheap sweat bee trap with the high rating of 4.3 stars out of 5 stars.
Price: Check current price
We feel obliged to present an alternative to killing the bees, namely repelling the sweat bees. This option should be perfect for you if you don’t want to kill anyone.
How to Repel Sweat Bees with the Best Sweat Bee Repellent
Repelling the sweat bees is the most humane way of getting rid of them. You can use a universal repellent which has already been tested in the fight against wasps, moths and other pest insects for these purposes as it will also repel sweat bees. Has a bee flown into your patio and does it prevent you from performing your outdoor activities? We’ve found a cheap solution for you.
Hot Shot 5580 No Pest Strip Unscented Hanging Vapor Insect Repellent
The manufacturer recommends that you use this Check current price versatile repelling strip in garages, basements, attics, warehouses, but many users hang it on the porch, the patio, on the clothesline pole, in the street laundry and so on, and it is really effective against the bees. The strip does not produce any strong odors and does not take up much space. If you use it indoors, ventilate the room and consider its size as the Hot Shot Strip protects a130 sq ft area for 4 months. The active ingredient is dichlorvos.
This repellent has been given a 4 out of 5 stars rating along with the positive reviews of the users who have obtained it to repel the bees. Even the allergy patients were satisfied. Read over 900 customers’ reviews on to learn more.
Price: Check current price
How to Kill a Single Sweat Bee with the Best Insecticide
Imagine the most common situation when a single or a couple of annoying sweat bees won’t leave you alone. An insecticidal spray will help you get rid of them and their aggravating buzzing. Most importantly, you should always have it handy and aim accurately.
Bee and Wasp Spray: Professional Freeze 17.5 oz
What is so great about this spray? It is cut-rate (it costs only Check current price) and effectively kills bees and wasps n contact even within 15 ft in a couple of seconds! The active ingredient of the spray is Prallethrin of the pyrethroids group, and its effectiveness has been proven the most influential scientists of the world. The WHO study showed that the “Prallethrin is very toxic to bees and fish but of low toxicity to birds”, which means it can be used with confidence to kill any bees including sweat bees.
When dealing with any synthetic chemicals, follow the safety rules! Pyrethroids are dangerous to be inhaled, so you can only use tis killing spray outdoors, in attics and in crawl spaces
Price: Check current price
NB! Since sweat bees are rather useful pollinating insects than harmful, it is not necessary to destroy their nest and try to kill all of its inhabitants by flooding the burrow with liquid insecticides! First of all by doing this, you will cause great damage to vegetation and crops, which the killed insects might have pollinated. Secondly, angry bees will defend the nest and violently attack you, and so you get a lot of bites. Third, if the nest is on your property, you risk ruining the fertile layer of soil, which will not recover after such a chemical irrigation soon enough.
What should you do then if there are too many sweat bees at your place and they bother you by constantly circling around and making it difficult to work? You need a more powerful treatment scheme then, and so it’s high time we covered the traps.
Best Sweat Bee Control Products Comparison Chart
| Bee and Wasp Spray: Professional Freeze
|Seicosy (TM) Non-toxic Trap||Trap||Sweet bait (not included)|
|Hot Shot 5580||Repelling Strip||Dichlorvos|
3 Homemade Ways to Get Rid Of Sweat Bees
Apart from ready-to-use options there are many homemade ways of getting rid of sweat bees. We’ll list several most popular pieces of advice below:
- A DIY sweat bee repellent: rub your skin with mint soap as the peppermint smell repels the bees
- A DIY sweat bee spray: take an empty spray bottle; fill ¼ of it with dish soap and the remaining ¾ with water. If you aim well enough when spraying, you are supposed to knock off the bees on the ground. But will this device kill them?
- Sweat bee bait is a method for the patient ones. Take a fresh mango, cut into pieces, place them in the box and hang the box on a tree. Watch the sweat bees swarm around the box with the juicy smell. On the next day, hang the box far enough from the previous spot as possible to make the bees fly and reach the bait. Repeat until the box is too far from you (with the bees). Remember to replace mango once in a while.
We have only listed three tips out of the many that people use in an attempt to rid themselves of annoying neighborhood with the bees. Do they work? It is not known. You can check if you have patience and plenty of spare time, or you can buy ready traps and sprays that have already collected tens and hundreds of detailed reviews on major online platforms and have been tested by the experts and customers.
7 Tips to Protect Yourself and Your Garden from Sweat Bees
Finally, we’ll reveal how to behave in order to protect yourself from attacks of unpleasant sweat bees and your property from the sweat bees’ nesting:
- Obviously, take shower regularly. This is a golden rule when it comes to getting rid of sweat bees. The less sweat there is the less attractive for the bees you see.
- Try to worry less as stress can trigger sweating (refer to point 1).
- Wear less perfume as the sweat bees as well as other species are also attracted by sweet odors. Refrain from using any perfume at all when working or spending much time outside.
- Wear closed clothes and cover your head whenever possible to make it more difficult for the sweat bees to reach your skin or crawl into your hair.
- Mulch the soil and water it in time. This will reduce the attractiveness of your backyard to the sweat bees looking for a nesting spot as they like open and dry land.
- Remove old tree stumps and dead trees from your property: if there are no other options, the bees can settle there.
- Eliminate any unnecessary water sources as the water also draws the bees.
If you think carefully, you’ll realize that getting rid of sweat bees is not scary and is a feasible task. Even investing into ready-to-use control products will hardly damage your budget and will help you have fun and work outside in peace. Use the proven products only and follow the prevention measures so that the sweat bees could not bother you anymore!
The grass-carrying wasp: A solitary wasp that builds nests in unusual places
As a Michigan State University Extension educator who accepts homeowner samples of insects, plants and pest damage for identification, I have the opportunity to learn about many interesting and unusual creatures. One such opportunity arrived with a lady who was preparing to install her storm windows for winter. She came across a clump of dried grass with a number of cocoons in it lodged in the track of one of the windows. Curious about what it was, and a little concerned that it might be something harmful, she brought it to my office.
After examining the clump of dried grass and stray insect parts, I opened one of the cocoons. What looked like a wasp was developing inside. Intrigued, I did some digging to find more information. It turns out the insects in the cocoons were grass-carrying wasps.
Grass-carrying wasps prefer to lay their eggs in nests made above ground, unlike some other solitary wasps. In nature, the females of these solitary wasps use hollow plant stems or abandoned galleries of other species to build their own nests. Apparently, in urban environments the tracks of storm window frames are a convenient place to use, too.
Females carry blades of grass to the chosen brood cavity where they lay their eggs in cells. The brood cells are prepared with a lining of grass and provisions of tree crickets for the larvae to feed on. Once the larvae have completed their development, they create papery cocoons and transform into pupae where they wait out the winter before emerging as adults in spring.
Dried grass and cocoons from a grass-carrying wasp nest found in a window track. Photo by Diane Brown, MSU Extension.
Grass-carrying wasps are native to North America. They belong to the family of thread-waisted wasps (Sphecidae) and are in the genus Isodontia. The adults are about 0.75 inch long and shiny black. They don’t sting anything other than their prey (tree crickets) and are not aggressive unless you try to handle them. Most of their adult life is spent pollinating flowers and sipping nectar, except when the females are busy building and provisioning nests. Native plants they are attracted to include goldenrods, rattlesnake master, mountain mint and boneset, among others.
As the interest in preserving pollinators continues to grow, it is helpful to find out more about the variety of native wasps and bees that can be found in our own backyards. You may encounter a grass-carrying wasp in a bee hotel if you have created one with a variety of different-sized tubes. In tubes occupied by grass wasps, you will likely find blades of grass sticking out of the tube. A site dedicated to rearing native bees and wasps mentioned that grass-carrying wasps were found nesting in holes that were 8 millimeters (0.3125 inch) in diameter.
A detailed article about grass-carrying wasps written by Heather Holm, author of the books “Bees: An Identification and Native Plant Forage Guide” and “Pollinators of Native Plants,” is posted here: “Meet the Grass-Carrying Wasp, a Gentle Pollinator of Summer Flowers.” The article contains excellent photos and a list of the nectar plants preferred by grass-carrying wasps.
How To Kill Wasps – How To Eliminate Wasps From Your Yard
Yellow jackets, paper wasps and hornets are the most common types of wasps that build their nests right where you don’t want them — in and around the lawn and garden. While these insects are often seen as pests due to their nasty stings, they’re actually important for the garden as both predatory insects and pollinators. However, when their nests get a little too close for comfort, like in the yard, it’s sometimes necessary to eliminate wasps to avoid any future problems that may arise.
The best way to deal with wasps is to minimize their numbers by deterring them from the area. Do not keep any food (including your pet’s) lying around. Keep drinks covered when outdoors and always ensure that garbage cans are tightly sealed. Also, keep any fallen fruits from nearby trees or shrubs, as well as in the garden, picked up as their sweet juices attract the wasps.
How to Get Rid of Wasps
If you already have a wasp problem and you need to know how to kill wasps, then it helps to understand what type you are dealing with and their particular nesting habits.
Yellow jackets, for instance, normally build their nests in the ground, and unfortunately, you may not even know they’re there until it’s too late. Nothing is worse than going out to the garden and coming back with a dozen or so stings. These aggressive wasps can also be found nesting in trees and shrubs, beneath eaves, and within other areas like wall voids in old buildings.
Hornets, too, commonly nest in trees or under the eaves of buildings.
Paper wasps, which are the least aggressive, can be found just about anywhere, building their nests under nearly any horizontal surface – including eaves, overhangs, tree limbs, and within abandoned structures.
Most of the time all of these wasps prefer quiet, out-of-the-way places. Of course, it doesn’t always seem to work out like that. This is when getting rid of wasps is our only option through the use of sprays or other means.
How to Kill Wasps
Generally, spring is the most ideal time for killing wasps, before the queen has established her colony. By late summer and fall, their nests decline as they become more interested in collecting pollen or foraging for sugary sweets. If the nest is large or you’re dealing with the more aggressive types, like yellow jackets and hornets, you may want to call in reinforcements (professionals) to handle the job. Otherwise, you can grab the can of wasp and hornet spray and following label instructions, spray the insecticide into the nest entrance or saturate the paper wasp nest during evening hours when the wasps are less active.
In addition to regular wasp spray, some people also use WD-40. However, when killing wasps in a plant (such as a tree or shrub), this isn’t always practical. That’s when using a home remedy to remove a wasp nest is necessary. For aerial nests, cover with a trash bag and seal it shut. Cut the nest from the tree and leave it in the sun the next day or freeze it to kill the wasps inside.
For those in the ground, pour a soapy solution (preferably hot) down the entrance and then seal it off with dirt or a large boulder. Keep in mind these usually have two entrances, so locating the back entrance is a good idea before you start. While not really earth-friendly, pouring paint into the nest may also be successful in eliminating these pests.
Wasps, hornets, and yellow jackets can put a serious damper on your outdoor fun. And since populations peak in late summer, now’s the time of year when you either deal with them or risk ruining a perfectly good afternoon nursing a seriously nasty welt.
Here’s how to kill (or deter) dangerous wasps, yellow jackets, and hornets hanging out near your home:
Tanglefoot Waspinator amazon.com $6.99
Many flying predators are quite territorial and will not start a new nest within a couple of hundred feet of an existing nest. You can work this to your advantage by hanging a fake wasp’s nest in a visible location early in the season. For $7, you can buy a commercial wasp-nest doppelganger from Amazon.
In late spring and early summer, keep an eye (and an ear) out for new nests being built anywhere you might not want one: under railings, awnings, play equipment, eaves, overhangs, and in any other sheltered nooks or crannies near family spaces.
Tiny new nests of just a few egg cells can be knocked off right away and stepped on if the queen (the only mobile resident at that time of year) is away foraging. Even slightly larger but still small nests — those with few dozen egg cells — can be knocked off and destroyed using a bit more caution: Pick the coolest part of the day (sunrise is good) and dress in gloves, a high-necked top with long sleeves, long pants tucked into socks, and a head net, if you have access to one, or a kerchief worn snug over your hair.
Once a nest has a few workers and is starting to increase in size, it gets too dangerous to try and knock it down.
Sometimes, you can just leave the nest alone. Wasps, hornets, and yellow jackets aren’t totally horrible. The predators hunt grubs, aphids, and houseflies — other pests that annoy at outdoor dinners and in your garden. Most wasps and hornets are generally uninterested in you and not particularly aggressive unless disturbed, and all of them will die come a hard frost or two in the fall; only the queen overwinters to start a brand new nest in the spring. So if the nest is in an out-of-the-way spot, and you don’t have curious pets that might disturb it, leave it alone and let nature take its course.
If you decide to let it be, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Adults feed on nectar and enjoy ripe fruit, which may bring them into your kitchen, compost pile, or garbage to hunt for food. Clean up dropped and overripe fruit promptly, cover garbage cans tightly, and bury fruit remnants a few inches deep in your compost bin or pile.
- When you dine outside, cover food on serving dishes and put away dirty plates as soon as possible. Also, serve your drinks in wide-mouth cups — you don’t want to unknowingly drink a yellow jacket that’s crawled into a bottle or can.
- Don’t count on insect repellent to deter yellow jackets. While its scent may make you less attractive to mosquitoes and flies, it may actually make you more attractive to yellow jackets.
Frank Köhntopp / EyeEmGetty Images
If the whole leaving-them-alone thing isn’t working, but you don’t want to tempt fate by destroying the nest, traps (note the use of the plural) are your next best tool.
Traps are simply an attractant (food or foodlike aroma) placed inside a container the pests can crawl into but can’t get out of easily. Quite a few commercial yellow jacket traps are available, but if you’d rather save money, you can make your own.
Just remember: Yellow jacket traps are designed to attract yellow jackets, so position them at least 20 feet away from commonly used areas, and use at least four to six baited traps.
Make a plastic bottle trap using a sharp pair of scissors or a knife to cut a two-liter plastic soda bottle in two just above the top of the label. In the bottom section, place your bait, then flip the funnel-shaped top section upside down (leaving the cap off the bottle opening) and insert it into the bottom section. Use tape to fasten the cut edges together all the way around.
Tim GrahamGetty Images
For bait, try overripe fruit, raw meat, fish, moist canned cat food, fruit juice concentrate, molasses in water, soda pop, or any other foods or beverages that your local population tends to go for.
Once your trap is clogged with pests, put the whole trap in the freezer overnight to make sure everything is dead and then empty the contents into the compost.
Battling Yellow Jackets
While you can probably survive by ignoring wasps, the chief problem makers in the bunch are yellow jackets. Some varieties build underground nests that can grow quite huge before you’re aware of them; others build nests above ground in sheltered locations or even high up in trees. All of them can and often do become problematic for people attempting to coexist in the same area. Nests in shared areas can be dangerous and need to be dealt with, and the dealing with needs to be done extremely carefully or left to a professional (the best option if you are sensitive to the stings or the nest is inside the wall of an occupied building).
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As with removing a small nest, work in the coolest part of the early morning and cover up every square inch of your body with sturdy, close-fitting clothing. Apply the wasp killer as directed, standing as far away as is practical, and be generous. Leave any nest entrance open to allow foraging members of the colony to come back in and come in contact with the poison. Monitor the nest for a couple of days and retreat as needed. Once there is no activity, remove and discard the nest to prevent reuse.
Wasp Control Don’ts
CBS Photo Archive/getty
- Don’t try to knock down a large nest. You won’t like the results if you succeed.
- Don’t pour flammable liquids into a ground nest. It won’t work and will seep into the groundwater and pollute it.
- Don’t try to destroy a ground nest with boiling water or vast quantities of cold water, as the entryway usually goes lower than the occupied area and neither will work.
- Don’t try DIY vacuum extraction with your shop vac … unless you want to end up with a Darwin award.
With any luck some early vigilance, careful yard hygiene, and good trap deployment you can keep problems to a minimum and will never need to deal with a big nest in the first place.
I’ve seen birds take wasps down and just leave them for dead, I’ve always thought it must have been that they posed a threat to the bird or its young? But you may have wondered if these wasps are likely to get stung in the process. Well, here’s the definitive guide on whether birds get stung by wasps or not.
First, here’s the quick answer, then we’ll dive into more fascinating detail.
Do Wasps Sting Birds? Yes, wasps sting birds when conflict arises. Generally, a single wasp is not a threat to a bird because of its protective feathers, but if a swarm of aggressive wasps starts attacking the bird, it can be lethal. Wasps attack birds to protect their homes and food.
Despite being famous for stinging, yellow jackets are actually pretty harmless unless they are provoked or attacking a target – which is usually an insect. Although some say they can be aggressive and bad-tempered just for fun! So let’s find out whether they just go around stinging birds!
Identify a Bird holding a Wasp?
If you see a bird wrestling with a wasp or a hornet, then you should be able to identify it from a bee or bumblebee by its more elongated body. Wasps and hornets have a more pointed lower abdomen and a narrow waist called petiole. They come in a variety of colors from bright yellow and red to metallic blue.
Wasps live in colonies and make their nests with wood fibers, using saliva to break down wood fibers into a soft woody pulp.
Why do wasps sting birds?
Whether a wasp stings a bird or not, depends on the type of wasp and circumstances of the wasp encounter. Most of the time, wasps sting and stinging are likely to happen towards the end of the summer season, which is due to lack of food supply. When there’s not enough food to feed a high population of wasps, they start scavenging for alternate food sources such as fruits, juices, leftover food, and even bird feeders.
Wasps also sting when their nest is disturbed by a creature. To try to defend their nest and any food source they have taken possession of, wasps stings release pheromones to attract the attention of nearby wasps. Once a bird is stung by a wasp near a wasp’s nest, potentially a swarm of buzzing wasps will come to attack the victim and protect the nest.
Finally, and naturally, a wasp will sting in self-defense. If it feels threatened or is attacked it will use whatever it has available to harm the predator.
Wasps are generally just a nuisance for birds
Wasps and birds generally live side by side without issue, each getting on with their tasks. And even if wasps do not sting birds, a bit like humans, the wasp is mainly just an inconvenience to the bird.
For this reason, birds may even build their nests in close proximity to a wasp, hornet, or bees nests. In doing so, it acts as another safeguard against other land-based predators such as squirrels and raccoons, who will not want to come close to the wasp’s nest in case they get attacked. So predation of eggs and young chicks can often be reduced by the presence of a wasp, bee or hornet’s nest
The wasps are not particularly afraid or bothered by most birds, even though some birds favor the flavor of wasp larvae and can easily empty out a test of the delicacies in short order. A few birds eat adult wasps, but not many.
A few small wasps won’t bother birds
Although wasps are feared for their sting and inconvenience – they’re largely harmless to birds unless provoked – which really doesn’t happen. Birds generally do not provoke wasps, but some do choose to eat wasps like the European Bee Eater (see below).
For a bird, an occasional wasp or two is no big deal as they rarely get stung by a wasp, partly because of their thick covering of feathers which can often prevent the stinger from piercing the bird’s skin. But also because birds move too quickly, which barely gives the wasp a chance to sting at all.
Can Wasps kill Birds?
Most of the time, neither birds or wasps will come in to contact enough to make a bird being killed by wasps even a narrow possibility. The circumstances have to be quite unique for this to be the case.
However, if provoked, or caught by surprise and attacked, particularly by large hornets (and especially the Giant Hornets of Asia!), then it is possible for a bird to be stung enough times to be killed by wasps.
For comparison, this image shows an Asian Giant Hornet next to a European honey bee.
We have to remember though that birds are winged and assuming they can shake off their attacker, they are able to escape extremely quickly.
Wasps can sting multiple times without being affected by it at all until they run out of venom, and actually, some wasps do not run out of venom! With their ability to release a pheromone into the air and thereby marking their prey, more wasps might then be attracted and attack in groups.
Do Birds eat Wasps
Yes, there are birds that have evolved to eat mainly wasps. the European Bee Eater, the Red Bearded Bee Eater, and the Blue Bearded Bee Eater are the most common birds known to prey on bees, wasps, and hornets. Bee Eaters prefer honey bees and bumblebees, but they will also eat moths, dragonflies, and other insects.
Do Bees sting Birds?
Of all the groups, bees are the least likely to sting a bird. Because of the single sting that Bees inject before dying, it’s not something they will do lightly. So you will find that a bee will only sting if its in mortal danger, as it is effectively committing suicide. So they mainly use it only as a deterrent to predators who may try and eat it.
Ants, Bees, and Wasps of North America (age 9+. From 4th Grade)
Great for taking out into the woods with the kids or on class field trips to help with identifying the bees and wasps in your area.
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I hope this answer on whether wasps (or hornets) sting birds, could kill birds or even whether birds kills wasps has been helpful for you. Be sure to check out the resources above and start your own bee colony! then report back here to tell us about any bee and bird encounters you see!
What Eats Wasps: Natural Wasp Enemies
If you’ve read our article, “Purpose of Wasps: Why Do We Need Them?”, you’ll know that wasps are pretty important in pest control because they are predators of a variety of insects. Our knowledge of food chain tells us that wasps must then be the prey of some other animals. But which ones are wasp predators?
A wide variety of creatures eat wasps, from insects and invertebrates like dragonflies, praying mantis, spiders, centipedes to birds such as mockingbirds, sparrows, nighthawks and starlings, reptiles and amphibians like lizards and geckos, and mammals such as mice, weasels, badgers, and black bears.
So, it turns out that there are many insectivorous species that ignore the bright warning colors of wasps and their painful stings. Which is why here we’ll go through each group of natural predators of wasps, with the aim of giving you a more complete picture of wasps’ position in the ecosystem.
Insects and other Invertebrates
Various insects and other invertebrates, including dragonflies, eat wasps. Among them are other wasps, praying mantids, robber flies, spiders, and centipedes. Baldfaced hornets (Dolichovespula maculata), a type of yellow jacket, prey on other yellowjacket species. European hornets (Vespa crabro) are also known to eat yellow jackets.
Praying mantids feast on almost any insect of a manageable size and have been observed chowing down on wasps. Robber flies, also called assassin flies, are a group of insectivorous flies. They attack insects (including wasps) in mid-air. Next, they bite their prey, injecting them with venomous saliva in the process. This immobilizes their victim, rendering them ripe for easy consumption. When wasps are unfortunate enough to fly into a garden spider’s (Araneus diadematus) web, they are likely to become a meal.
There are many different types of birds that eat wasps (at least 24 species), including starlings, blackbirds, magpies, mockingbirds, tanagers, a group called bee-eaters, sparrows, bluebirds, wrens, chickadees, orioles, warblers, catbirds, nighthawks, and the red-throated caracara.
Birds typically hunt solitary wasps rather than social wasps. Social wasps alert their nest-mates to danger by emitting an alarm pheromone, which triggers them to attack. By targeting solitary wasps, birds can avoid this unpleasant defense mechanism. Honey buzzards possess dense facial feathers that secrete sedatives to both protect them from stings and confuse prey when they poke their heads into wasp nests for a snack.
Some birds, such as tanagers, protect themselves from stings by breaking off a wasp’s stinger before eating it.
Bee-eaters are known for their diet of stinging insects, including social wasps. Like tanagers, bee-eater species protect themselves by disarming their prey. They squeeze and beat wasps against branches to make them expel their venom. They can even distinguish males from females and simply eat males without beating them first. The red-throated caracara (Ibycter americanus), a tropical bird, specializes on wasps and even feeds whole nests to its chicks. This species is able to do this by repeated bombarding of the nest, which eventually causes the wasps to give up their attack and flee. Tropical wasps aren’t as limited by season as temperate wasps. Therefore, it is easier for them to establish a new colony if one becomes compromised. Wasps in temperate regions don’t have enough time to raise a new brood before winter sets in.
Reptiles and Amphibians
Lizards, primarily geckos, are common wasp predators, having been observed eating adult wasps and chewing through nests to get to the larvae. Asian geckos feed on a specific type of large wasp, Polistes sp., with an especially painful sting. Amphibians, such as salamanders, toads, and frogs, also consume wasps and wasp larvae.
A few mammals are known to feed on wasps, including black bears, badgers, mice, weasels, and stoats.
Both black bears and badgers are known to destroy entire colonies to reach the eggs and larvae within. Even though black bears are most often associated with honey consumption, they are omnivores and must obtain some of their nutrition from animals. Badgers’ primary wasp prey are of the burrowing variety as badgers have strong forelimbs ending in sharp claws that they use to dig for food. Given the important insectivore, role bats play in their ecosystems, it’s likely that bats eat wasps, too.
Bonus – Plants
You may have heard of carnivorous plants. The most famous of these are probably the sundews and pitcher plants. Different types of carnivorous plants employ different strategies to capture and consume insect prey.
One type of pitcher plant, Sarracenia, selectively consumes Asian hornets, but not other types of wasps or bees. In France, the invasive Asian hornet has become a threat to native bees. This particular pitcher plant has nectar and pheromones that are specifically attractive to Asian hornets. The Hornets land on the rim of the pitcher-shaped leaves then crawls toward the inside edge, where they slip and fall deep into the leaf and are digested.
While wasps are important predators in their ecosystems, they are not top predators, serving as prey for a variety of other animals (and even plants) as well. They might have developed both bright warning colors and stingers to fend off attackers, but those have limited success. Insects and other invertebrates, birds, reptiles and amphibians, and mammals are all able to catch and consume wasps and wasp larvae. Some birds are even able to minimize the effect of wasp stings. It’s likely that many other insectivores also feed on wasps, but it can sometimes be difficult for researchers to determine specific diets.
Wasps are more than just important pest predators, decomposers, and pollinators. They also serve as important prey to other critical members of their community.
We hope this helps you on your journey to learn more about wasps!
Some bees look like wasps because they don’t have much hair on their bodies. They collect pollen and store it internally in their crop instead of on the outside of their bodies. Some other relatively hairless bees, cuckoo bees, don’t collect pollen because they lay their eggs in the nests of other bees. Wasps usually have more elongate bodies, longer legs, and sometimes have what looks like a pinched waist, whereas bees usually look more compact. There are other physical differences between bees and wasps, but they are hard to make out without the use of a hand lens or microscope. So, if you see a busy creature flying from flower to flower and actively collecting brightly colored pollen, then you can be fairly sure it is a bee.
Bees actually evolved from predatory wasps (apoid wasps), so bees and wasps have a lot of similarities both in appearance and behavior. Bees and wasps both have two sets of wings, unlike flies, which only have one. Also, only the females of bees and wasps can sting because the stinger is actually a modified egg laying apparatus. Behaviorally they are similar in that they both have social and solitary species. Yellow jackets, like bumble bees, have seasonal colonies that form in the spring and die out in the late fall with the queens overwintering to start a new colony the following year. The majority of bees and wasps though are solitary, and the female does all the work of building and provisioning nests for her young.
One wasp that a lot of people confuse with bees is the yellow jacket. Unlike honey bees, yellow jackets and other wasps don’t leave their stinger behind when they sting something, therefore they are able to sting several times in a row. These social wasps form papery nests both above and below ground that can contain anywhere from 50 to 5,000 individuals. The larger the colony gets the more aggressive the wasps become. This usually happens in late summer/early fall when food is in short supply. Yellow jackets then become nuisances at picnics eating whatever they can find. The adults will sting and paralyze insect prey as well as scavenge from carrion to provide as food for their offspring. As adults they mostly feed on nectar, honey dew, and rotting fruit.
Wasps – Do They Make Honey, What Do They Eat, and More
Hire experienced exterminators to do the job, especially if you are allergic. Wasps are not easy to get rid of.
Getting Rid of Wasps
Why do wasps build nests near your home? The simple answer is because there is food nearby. Some of the things that wasps are attracted to are:
- organic food waste;
- plants in your garden;
- insects in your garden;
- still water source.
How To Keep Wasps Away
- Remove still water.
- Keep your trash cans closed tightly so wasps cannot smell the food.
- Buy decoys for the wasps. Some species of wasps are territorial and if they see a nest they will not create another one in close proximity.
- Build plants in your garden that repel wasps. If you don’t have a garden and live in a flat, you can plant them in pots and place them near windows. Such plants are thyme citronella, eucalyptus, spearmint and more. They are natural wasp repellents.
- Fix all crevices- on the roof, on walls, near windows or doors.
Who Removes Wasp Nests?
There are over 9 000 species of wasps in the UK and over 250 species have stingers. Most of them are solitary wasps and will not meddle in human life but nine of the species are enough to be all over the UK causing problems to humans.
Nine of the species are social wasps and build large nests, unfortunately, many times near your home, office building or at a park.
The Common wasp is found throughout the UK inhabiting not only woodlands but also urban areas. They can reach up to 17mm and is in the iconic for wasps black and yellow stripes.
A nest can have thousands of wasps inhabiting it, depending on its size. However, it is extremely dangerous to attempt to remove a wasp nest on your own without protection or some kind of pesticide. If your home is infested with wasps or they have built a nest near it you should seek professional nest and wasps removal service.
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IS THAT INSECT A BEE, A WASP OR A FLY?
Aussie Bee > Native Bee Identification Guide > Bees, Wasps or Flies?
Main Features of Bees, Wasps and Flies
Take a look at the following three photos that show typical features of a bee, a wasp and a fly. Then look at our comparison chart, below, for more details.
|Body shape||Often hourglass shape with short ‘waist’||Often slender with distinct ‘waist’||Often broad with hidden ‘waist’|
|Number of wings||4||2|
|Eyes||Narrow, on side of head.||Wide and round, toward front of head|
|Furry bodies?||Often furry||Usually shiny, with some bristles|
|Hind legs||Often with broad segments||Long and fine|
|More photos||Bee photo gallery||Wasp photo gallery||Fly photo gallery|
The above table and photos give only typical features of bees, wasps and flies. Remember that there are many thousands of species of these insects and some do not fit into the generalisations given. To confidently distinguish bees, wasps and flies, you need to look at them very closely, and may sometimes need a microscope. Here are some more tips to help you:
Bees, wasps and flies can be generally distinguished by the ‘waist’ that separates their thorax and their abdomen:
— Bees have a short narrow waist that gives their body an ‘hour-glass’ shape.
— Wasps usually have more pronounced ‘waists’. In some the ‘waist’ is just a distinct narrow area. However others, such as the wasp in the photo above, also have an indented segment at the front of their abdomen. Others have very elongate narrow waists, like a thin straw connecting the thorax and abdomen.
— Most flies, in comparison, look thick set, because their thorax and abdomen usually fit closely together, hiding the ‘waist’ area.
Back to Comparison Chart.
Number of Wings
All bees and wasps have four wings, but flies only have two wings. As shown in the following diagrams, two of the wings of flies have been converted into tiny drumstick-shaped structures called Halteres. These structures help flies to perform their acrobatic flying feats.
Above: bees have four wings, but flies only have two wings. The back two wings of flies have been converted into club-shaped Halteres, which help flies to balance well during flight.
Wasps and bees usually connect their front and back wings together with tiny hooks when they fly. So you need to look very closely to count the number of wings on your insect. However, if your insect looks like a bee but it only has two wings, then it is definitely a fly.
Back to Comparison Chart.
Eyes and Antennae
Flies have large round eyes that tend to be placed towards the front of the fly’s head. In contrast, most bees and wasps have narrow, long, oval eyes on the sides of their heads. Some types of wasps also have distinctive notches in the front edges of their eyes. Bees do not have notches in their eyes.
Above: some wasps have a notch in the front margin of each eye.
Back to Comparison Chart.
Pollen-Collecting Hair and the Legs
Female bees collect pollen to feed the young in their nests. To gather the dusty pollen more efficiently from flowers, many bees have thick furry coats. Using a high-powered microscope, we can see that bees have minute feathers on their hairs which help them trap the pollen grains (see photo).
Above: bees have hairs with tiny feathery branches that help them trap pollen when they visit flowers. This Scanning Electron Microscope photograph by John Vaughan shows the hairs on the side of a stingless bee — with short feathery hair on the lower left and a tuft of long feathery hair on the top right.
Most bees also have special tufts of hair on their hind legs or under their abdomen which help them carry pollen back to their nests. Bright yellow pads of pollen carried on an insect’s legs or abdomen are signs of a bee! Furthermore the hind legs of many bees have broad segments to help them carry pollen.
Above: these Tetragonula stingless bees, returning to their nest entrance, are carrying balls of bright yellow pollen on their hind legs.
Wasps in contrast, usually catch insects to feed their young. As they do not collect pollen, very few wasps have hairy coats. Instead most have smooth bodies and they have strong bristles without branches, rather than the fine feathery hairs that bees have. Their hind legs are also long and fine, lacking the special structures that bees have for carrying pollen.
Similarly flies do not collect pollen for their young. So they too usually have smooth bodies, with simple bristles, and long fine legs.
To complicate matters, two major groups of Australian native bees, the Hylaeine bees (Masked Bees) and the Euryglossine bees, do not carry their pollen using body hair. Instead they swallow the pollen that they collect. As a result, these two groups of bees have shiny bodies with very little hair. Their hind legs are also relatively fine. Unfortunately this can make these types of bees look rather like wasps. However, a microscope reveals that even these bees have at least a few feathery hairs, often behind the head or at the back of the thorax.
Above: this Masked Bee will swallow the pollen she collects from this flower. Her smooth and shiny body is similar to the body of a wasp.
Although there are some exceptions, one of the easiest ways to recognise a bee is to see if she is carrying pollen back to her nest.
Back to Comparison Chart.
Like to Know More?
For more tips on distinguishing bees, wasps, flies and other wild pollinating insects, download the ID guide compiled by Wild Pollinator Count.
Other Aussie Bee Reports on Identifying Flower Visitors:
— Native Bee ID Guide
— Native Bee Photo Gallery
— Wasp Photo Gallery
— Fly Photo Gallery