A Brief Guide to Spotting Common Bees and Wasps

Summer is here though the weather seems to be as mixed up as those working from home and loosing track of what day it is. Longer days, barbecues and playing outside are common at this time of year but so are an increase in insects and the buzzing of bees and wasps is common.

Many people have no problems with bees as long as they stay away, but their yellow and black striped wasp cousins are almost universally disliked. Any type of buzzing insect can be extremely irritating if you’re trying to enjoy a picnic or some time outdoors, but how do you tell the difference between a harmless honey bee and a potentially angry wasp?

Many wasp and bee species look very similar, but there are some subtle differences if you know what to look for. With this in mind, see our brief guide below and get back to enjoying the summer sunshine.


Arguably the most familiar of buzzing insects, the bumblebee is between ¼ and 1 inch in size, and has an overall ‘fuzzy’, furry appearance. Bumblebees are typically very docile unless they feel threatened or you come too close to their nest. They pollinate flowers which is very beneficial for the planet, so keep quiet and calm and they should pass you by with no trouble.

Carpenter bee

This type of bee is similar to the bumblebee in size, but the top of their abdomen is bare and shiny instead of furry. Carpenter bees do not build nests; they prefer to burrow into wood which can cause serious structural damage to properties if not treated. If you spot a large number of these bees near a building, it’s best to call pest control as soon as possible.

Honey bee

The honey bee is a lot smaller, around ⅝ inches maximum size, and an orange-brown and black in colour instead of a brighter yellow. Honey bees are very social and live as a colony in large hives, and are not aggressive unless they feel the need to defend their colony.

Yellow jackets

A yellow jacket is probably the most recognisable type of wasp, characterised by its bright yellow and black stripes and long antennae. They live in self-constructed paper nests, and again, tend to be slow to sting unless the nest is threatened. However if you spot a nest on or near your property, it’s wise to have it professionally dealt with.

Paper wasps

A paper wasp is brown in colour, with reddish or yellow markings. They are larger and longer in the abdomen than yellow jackets, which can make them look more menacing although they are not naturally aggressive.


Hornets are a much more serious problem, and although not very common, they should be treated with caution. The only type you’re likely to see in the UK is the European hornet – they look like a larger version of a yellowjacket, but their stings are far more venomous. Hornets are dangerous if disturbed, so call pest control immediately if you come across any nests.

If you need help managing any of the common pests above, give Eliminate Ltd a call. We offer wasp and bee removal throughout the UK, and are highly trained at eradicating nests in both commercial and domestic properties. If you need effective pest control, give us a call today or visit our website.