Bees and Wasps
No insect can clear people from a picnic table on a sunny day like a . Bees and wasps nest and forage naturally around us, so understanding them is helps minimize the risk of being stung.
- Native bees are important pollinators.
- Ants can also sting.
Should I Worry About Stinging Bees and Wasps?
Bees and wasps are a part of life. Some can cause trouble but most are harmless and beneficial, whether as pollinators or as predators of caterpillars and other potentially damaging insects.
Colony-building bees and wasps
When colony-building bees and wasps create nests close to where we live, work, and play we often need to manage them. These species are most likely to sting, which can cause life-threatening reactions in people (and sometimes pets) with allergies.
- Yellowjackets and paper wasps that build nests on houses and other buildings may become a stinging hazard to people.
- Yellowjackets and honey bees will build nests inside buildings when they have access. This can cause a big mess from honey and wax or dead larvae that attract and breed beetles and other pests.
- Carpenter bees will damage exposed boards of solid wood by excavating tunnels along the wood grain. This damage is often hidden until it is severe.
How do I manage bees and Wasps?
Each species of stinging bees and wasps is different and requires a different approach.
- A pest management professional should be hired for large yellowjacket and hornet nest removal, but small nests can be safely knocked down early in the season with a long pole or jet of water.
- A beekeeper can be called for a swarm or colony of honey bees in an accessible spot.
- There are a variety of techniques for carpenter bee prevention and management.
The first step is to properly identify the bee or wasp to determine the IPM strategies use.
- Wasp and Bee Management, A Common-Sense Approach (pdf)
- How to Prevent the Buzz – Sting – Ouch! of Bald-Faced Hornets (pdf)
- Bumblebees – Pollinators that Sting (pdf)
- Get Rid of Carpenter Bees? Yes, Please! (pdf)
- Bee a Good Neighbor—Information for beekeepers and neighbors (pdf)
- Paper Wasps: Friend or Foe? (pdf)
What do bees and wasps look like?
The first step to managing a problem with bees or wasps is to properly identify the species. Different species require different approaches.
Common Kinds of Stinging Bees and Wasps
This list includes only the major types of stinging insects you are likely to encounter where you live, work, learn and play.
Bumblebees are docile while foraging but can deliver a fierce sting if stepped on or defending the colony and queen.
Damage to structural wood is the biggest issue with carpenter bees. They are not much of a stinging hazard.
Among the largest of the wasps in NY, cicada killers are gentle giants and very unlikely to sting.
Honey bees are social, live in complex colonies with a queen, and can become structural pests if the nest is built inside the wall or attic of a building.
European hornet nests are built inside hollow trees and old barns, usually out of the way of people. They can sting—it will be painful—but they are not aggressive away from the colony.
Paper wasps often warn intruders who get too close to the nest by flying into them without stinging but they can deliver a painful sting when disturbed.
Solitary wasps, are typically ground nesters and seem to specialize in ignoring people.
Yellowjackets deliver painful stings and when crushed, their bodies release alarm pheromone to attract other workers. Colonies can grow to 5,000 workers or more by the end of the summer.
What’s the difference between a bee and a wasp?
- Bees (pdf) - Cornell Cooperative Extension
- Bumblebees (pdf) - Cornell Cooperative Extension
- Carpenter Bees (pdf)
- Hornets: see Bald-Faced-Hornets (pdf) and Stinging Insects (pdf)
- Paper Wasps (pdf) - Cornell Cooperative Extension
- Stinging Insects (pdf) - Cornell Cooperative Extension
- Wasps (pdf) - Cornell Cooperative Extension
- Yellowjackets (pdf) - Cornell Cooperative Extension