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  • Writer's pictureDanielle Fornal

Which Bee Do You See?

Updated: Jun 26

Is it a bee? Is it a wasp? It can be super confusing to identify a specific type of stinging insect, so let’s take a quick tour of some types of stinging insects in Wisconsin and their distinguishing traits.


To start, here’s some general stinging insect knowledge regarding bees and wasps.


Bees: Have two pairs of wings, relatively hairy, long antennae


Wasps: Have two pairs of wings, relatively hairless, long antennae, most have a thin “waist”, many have bright orange and yellow colors (stripes on legs, abdomen or thorax)



stinging insect ID


Honey Bee:


Nest: Human built or nests built within walls


Identifying Markers: Yellow-Orange in color (color can be faint in some bees), ½” in size


Other Distinguishing Traits: Hairy eyes, can only sting once and then die


Bumble Bee:


Nest: Under stoops, under concrete by patios and decks, lower to the ground nesting areas


Identifying Markers: Very hairy bodies, legs and abdomen. Larger in size (1-1 ½”) , Yellow, orange or white hairs on both abdomen and thorax


Other Distinguishing Traits: Defend their nest aggressively and can sting repeatedly


Carpenter Bee:


Nest: Wood areas, under eaves, decks


Identifying Markers: Larger in size (1-1 ½”), Resemble the bumble bee, but have less color and upper abdomen is bare and shiny back


Other Distinguishing Traits: Males (all black) do not sting, only females sting (tan in color), make burrows in wood for egg-laying


Yellow Jacket:


Nest: Upside down tear-drop shaped nest made of paper with a single hole in the bottom, nest in wall voids, rodent burrows, eaves, and other locations that are easily hidden from predators


Identifying Markers: A brighter yellow in color, ½” in size


Other Distinguishing Traits: Fly a side to side flight pattern before landing, they are scavengers and tend to invade BBQs and picnics. Sting repeatedly


Polistes Wasp:


Nest: nests are made of paper-like combs and found hanging under eaves, door frames, soffits, deck rails, roofs, porches, trees, shrubs


Identifying Markers: Wasps have smooth bodies, usually dark brown with yellow markings. Their body can be up to three-fourths of an inch long with slender waist. When flying, can be recognized by two rear legs "hanging down".


Other Distinguishing Traits: Very protective of their nest, can sting repeatedly


Bald-faced Hornet:


Nest: Build their nests entirely on the exterior and out in the open; they build football-shaped nests out of reach in high eaves, under decks and in trees and shrubs


Identifying Markers: Yellow and black (or sometimes white and black), look similar to the yellow jacket, but longer and thinner, Up to 2’ in size


Other Distinguishing Traits: Extremely aggressive, can sting repeatedly



Seeing stinging insects? Give us a call 262-679-4422.

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