Identifying Bees and Wasps

Common Bees and Wasps

The first step to managing a problem with bees or wasps is to properly identify the species. Different species require different management approaches. This page includes only the major types of stinging insects you are likely to encounter where you live, work, learn and play.

Pollinators or Predators

Which beneficial roles do bees and wasps play in the ecosystem? 

Fuzzy or Smooth

Can you tell bees and wasps apart by how fuzzy or smooth they are? 

Solitary or Social

Are all bees social and all wasps solitary? 

bumblebee visiting a flower

Bumble bees are docile while foraging but can deliver a fierce sting if stepped on or defending the colony and queen.

fuzzy black and yellow bee

Damage to structural wood is the biggest issue with carpenter bees. They are not much of a stinging hazard.

a large yellow and brown wasp

Among the largest of the wasps in NY, cicada killers are gentle giants and very unlikely to sting.

bee about to land on a flower

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.

a wasp on dead leaves

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.

black and yellow wasp

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.

a green and black striped wasp on sand

Solitary wasps, are typically ground nesters and seem to specialize in ignoring people.

a black and yellow wasp on the rim of a glass

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.