Stinging Insects 101: How to Identify Stinging Critters

Bee Hive with Yellow Bees

Sometimes it’s hard to catch a break outdoors in Kansas City. With cold winters and humid summers, sometimes spring and fall are the only times that we get to basque in the sunshine, laying or playing outside, with the rare but winning combination of the warm sun and cooling breeze. But hold up, what’s that sound?  But hold up, what’s that sound? Everyone knows the feeling of dread and disappointment to finally be outside in perfect weather, only to hear the eerie buzz of a stinging insect circling around your head and sending children screaming. One is bad enough, but then they keep coming and suddenly you have a pest problem on your hands.


If you have a possible wasp or bee infestation on your property, it can often feel like you’re trapped indoors just as the perfect weather arrives. If you’re concerned that you might have a pest problem on your hands, it’s definitely important to have a trusty pest control contact to call. However, not all insects are created equal and some might need immediate attention whereas others might be less worried. By identifying the difference between different stinging insects you can make sure to know when to call the experts in. 



Bumblebees are most likely what you visualize when you think of a “bee.” These critters are identifiable by their large fuzzy, round bodies and their yellow stripes across their black fur. This kind of bee is mostly looking for the sweetest flowers to find and is unlikely to sting you.

While docile and non-aggressive stinging insects, bumblebees do not actually die after they sting you, and without a barbed stinger, they can remove their stinger and sting multiple times. If you see bumblebees buzzing happily around your garden, there’s nothing to worry about, but if you suspect an infestation by discovering multiple bumblebees in and around your house, it’s best to call Advantage Pest Control to have it taken care of. 


Honey Bees

The honey bee is smaller than the bumblebee and instead of the statement black and yellow, they have tan stripes over their black bodies. Like the bumblebee, honey bees are non-aggressive unless their hive or life is threatened. Unlike bumblebees, when a honey bee stings someone, they die, as they lose their stinger which removes their abdomen. This means that their stinging mechanism is the last resort when threatened and is very unlikely to happen. While a swarm of honey bees might seem concerning, this is largely no cause to worry as honey bees only swarm when well fed and thus most likely docile and unlikely to sting. If you spot a swarm of honey bees, don’t panic, honey bees are common in residential areas and it’s not likely you have a concerning pest problem. Follow the path of the honey bees to see if you notice a hive directly on your property, if not you’re fine to leave them “bee!”


Paper Wasps

When people are usually concerned about stinging insects, most of their concerns (and the bad reputation of stinging creatures!) stem from wasps. Wasps are generally more aggressive than bees but even among wasps, there’s a range of severity when it comes to pest infestation. The paper wasp is one of the least aggressive species of wasp. Paper wasps are identifiable by their orange, red, and maroon bodies with black and yellow stripes. While their coloring can sometimes look similar to yellow jacket wasps, they are distinguishable by their longer, thinner bodies and more segmented waist. They also have orange-tipped antennae. Like bees, these wasps usually only sting when they are threatened, however, they have small nests that can be rapidly built in residential properties, such as on porches or decks. However, the good news is that they only inhabit their nests during the winter when the colony dies. If you believe you have a paper wasp infestation, nearby such as in your yard, it’s likely fine to be left alone. If, however, you find a paper wasp nest on your property, it’s best to call in the professionals in quickly. 


Bald-Faced Hornets

With a coloring that implies “wasp in its gothic phase” these black stinging insects decorated with a few cream stripes, are actually in the wasp family! Bald-faced hornets have large nests that are usually built in tall trees. While these stinging insects usually prefer to build their nests high, they can occasionally settle for the eaves of a house. These critters are territorial, so unfortunately if their nests are in close proximity to your home or business, you may be at risk. If you notice black wasps with light-colored markings inhabiting a large nest, it’s important to get in touch with a trusted pest control company to make sure you’re not at risk. 




Yellowjackets have a mean reputation and for good reason. These stinging critters are widespread across the USA and in many places around the world and can be very territorial, and aggressive with their painful sting. With their yellow and black stripes, these pests have similar coloring to bees but are distinguishable at a glance by their skinnier body with a more defined point at the tail, narrower waist, hairless body, and yellower color. Unlike most other stinging insects, Yellowjackets live in the ground. While this might sound like it protects your home from becoming a yellowjacket hotspot, unfortunately, these wasps can get confused and with a void space in your home, can actually build nests in an attic, wall, or ceiling void. A stray yellowjacket in your home might not be cause for concern, but if sighting multiple, it’s vital to get in touch with pest control as soon as possible. Yellowjacket wasps can swarm in numbers of hundreds or even thousands while attacking, so call your pest control expert fast if you suspect a yellowjacket infestation.


European Hornets

Despite their name, European hornets are found across the span of North America as well as Europe. European Hornets have smooth, yellow, and black bodies and are easily mistaken for yellow jackets. They are distinguishable physically from yellowjackets by their larger size and red coloring on their head, upper body, and even legs – as opposed to yellowjackets which are primarily black and yellow only. While they might share some coloring similarities with paper wasps, they are significantly larger and stouter than skinny paper wasps. Unlike yellowjackets, European hornets build their nests in tree hollows. While not too common, these critters can make nests in barns, sheds, and ceilings, causing a nasty problem for homeowners. While these stinging creatures are far less aggressive than yellowjackets, they have been known to sting multiple times in attack, leading to a significant amount of venom injected in one interaction. If you suspect a European hornet infestation in or near your property, have it dealt with by a pest control expert in your area.  


For appointments, inquiries, or help identifying insects, it’s important to have your local expert on call

Concerned that you might have a pest infestation? Unsure what insect is setting up shop on your property? Give Advantage a call to make sure you have the professional help you need.

A bee or wasp infestation might be a problem beyond your control that can make you feel trapped or put you in danger, but there’s no need to suffer. Count on Advantage Pest Control to guide you through your pest solution. Advantage Pest Control has experience dealing with stinging insects and bugs – so for an affordable and efficient solution, trust us to keep the bugs at bay. 



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