types of bees in new england

Spotting the Differences: Bees, Wasps, Hornets and Yellow Jackets


Stinging insects are among the most feared pests that can be found around the home. As anyone who has ever been stung can attest, flying insects, such as wasps and bees, can inflict a painful sting. While many people tend to view these insects as a nuisance, it is important to keep in mind that they play a powerful role in the environment by pollinating flowers and controlling other pests. The following guide explains how to spot the differences between the main stinging insects found in New England so that the aggressive species bees can be controlled.

Types of Bees

Among stinging insects, bees are one of the easiest to identify due to their hairy, round bodies. In New England, there are two main types of bees to be concerned about: the bumblebee and the honey bee. Honey bees are identified by their tan and yellow markings while bumblebees are either yellow or orange and black. It is important to be able to tell the difference because honey bees tend to be less aggressive than bumblebees; however, all bees will swarm and will sting to protect their hive.

honey bee

Honey Bee

Bumble Bee

Bumble Bee

Wasp vs. Yellow Jackets

According to the University of New Hampshire, there are at least nine different species of yellow-jackets in the New England area. Yellow-jackets are an aggressive species that live up to their name. They can easily be identified by the yellow and black bands on their bodies. Brown paper wasps may also have yellow bands on their body, but they can be differentiated from yellow-jackets because the rest of their body is brown. Brown paper wasps are less aggressive and are known for their paper-like hives they build under eaves and in attics.

Yellow-Jacket Wasp

Yellow-Jacket Wasp

paper wasp nest

Exposed paper wasp nest

Identifying Hornets

Bald-faced hornets are frequently confused with wasps; however, they tend to be larger and more aggressive. The bald-faced hornet is black with gray or white bands. European hornets can grow as large as one-inch and can resemble yellow-jackets except for its tendency to include brown in its markings. Unlike yellow-jackets that tend to nest underground, hornets will build nests in the eaves of buildings. As with all stinging insects, controlling these species should be done with great care or with the help of a professional so that no one is harmed by the stings.


European Hornet

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