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Home > Bugs > Bugs Found in Yards and Lawns > Bees, Hornets and Wasps

Bees, Hornets and Wasps

Yellowjacket Wasps

Yellowjackets are beneficial insects that feed other insects to their larvae, often preying on insects that humans consider pests. Unfortunately, their ability to sting makes them a considerable health concern. Yellowjackets are responsible for about one-half of all human insect stings; they are easily provoked, and can sting more than once.

Yellowjacket wasps often become a nuisance from August through October, as they build up in large populations and scavenge for human food at picnics, cookouts, outside restaurants, bakeries, campsites, fairs, sports events and other outdoor get-togethers. Unless the threat of stings and nest location present a hazard, it is best to wait for freezing temperatures to kill off these annual colonies. Stinging workers do not survive the winter and the same nest is not reused.


Honey Bees

Honey bees are very important animals. Humans rely on them to pollinate crops, especially fruit trees; people also eat honey and use wax from honeycomb to make candles and other products. Honey bees usually leave people alone, but they are attracted to some soaps, perfumes and hairsprays. If one comes near you it is probably confused. Once it realizes you have no nectar it will leave you alone, but people do sometimes get stung stepping on bees.

Honey bees are not native to the United States, they were brought here from Europe in the 1600s. They compete with some native species of bees which are close to extinction due to this competition.


Bumble Bees

Bumble bees are important as pollinators. They can be aggressive around nesting sites but they are rarely aggressive during foraging activities. They occasionally become a problem when their nest is located next to a building or walkway. Like honey bees, bumble bees live in a colony where the adults care for the young (larvae) produced by a single queen. Bumble bee nests are small compared to honey bees, as each nest contains only a few hundred individuals.


Paper Wasps

Paper wasps are beneficial because they feed on insects considered pests by humans. They commonly build nests around homes, such as underneath eaves. Wasps attack when the nest is disturbed and each can sting repeatedly; stings typically cause localized pain and swelling, but in sensitive individuals or when many stings occur, more intensive reactions occur, including death.

Paper-like nests, shaped like tiny umbrellas, are suspended by a short stem attached to eaves, window frames, porch ceilings, attic rafters, etc. Each nest consists of a horizontal layer or "tier" of circular comb of hexagonal (six-sided) cells not enclosed by a paper-like envelope. The ends of the cells are open with the heads of the larvae exposed to view.


Baldfaced Hornets

The baldfaced hornet is a member of the yellowjacket family. They are aggressive and will attack anything (or anyone) that invades their space. They can sting repeatedly and their sting is very painful.

Baldfaced hornets build paper-like nests, which are grayish-brown, inverted, pear-shaped, and up to three feet tall with the nest entrance at the bottom. Each nest consists of a number of horizontal layers, stories or "tiers" of circular combs, one below the other completely enclosed by a paper-like envelope as a covering. Also, the cells are not exposed to view. Nest are built hanging from trees, bushes, vegetation and occasionally buildings.


yellowjacket honey bee bumble bee
A typical yellowjacket worker is about 1/2-inch long, short and blocky, with alternating black and yellow bands on the abdomen, while the queen is about 3/4-inch long. Honey bees are about 3/4 inch long. reddish brown and black, with orangish-yellow rings on the abdomen. Bumble bees are easily recognized, being large (3/4 inch long) with black and yellow or orangish hair patterns on their abdomens.
paper wasp baldfaced hornet  
Paper wasps are 3/4 to 1 inch long, slender, narrow-waisted wasps with smoky black wings that are folded lengthwise when at rest. Body coloration varies with species . Baldfaced hornets are up to 3/4-inch long with black and ivory white markings on the face, thorax (middle body part) and tip of the abdomen.  

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Identification and Control Information (each will open in a new window)


Information about Bees and Wasps as Beneficial Insects (each will open in a new window)


Want to Know More? More Information about Beneficial Organisms


[Photos, left to right: Gary Alpert, Harvard University,; Johnny N. Dell,; Gary Fish, Maine BPC; David Cappaert, Michigan State University,; David Cappaert, Michigan State University,]

It is the policy of the State of Maine to minimize reliance on pesticides. The Maine Department of Agriculture and the Maine IPM Council encourage everyone to practice integrated pest management and to use pesticides only as a last resort. The mention of pesticides in the fact sheets linked to these pages does not imply an endorsement of any product. Be sure that any product used is currently registered and follow all label directions.