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Common Types of Stinging Insects

When it’s warm, it’s not uncommon to find stinging insects buzzing around your yard. While some stinging insects can be beneficial, others are more worrisome. It’s important to be able to correctly identify stinging insects and their nests. We’ve gathered information about common stinging insects to help you spot the difference between these bugs.  

Paper Wasps

Paper Wasp

Paper wasps are brown with yellow markings. They have a thin waist and long legs. They range in size from 5/8"-3/4". They construct nests from wood pulp, giving the nest a paper-like appearance. Their nests are gray or brown and made of hexagonal cells. Outdoors, these umbrella-shaped nests can be found on tree limbs, in shrubs, under porches and decks, and on the exterior of homes. Inside, nests are often seen in attics and wall voids. Paper wasps aren’t typically aggressive, but they will sting to defend their nest.

Yellow Jackets

Yellow Jacket

Yellow jackets are a type of wasp that live in large colonies. These stinging insects are black and yellow and grow between 3/5"-5/8". They have long wings and lack hair. Their nests are similar to paper wasp nests with a paper-like appearance. They typically have one round entry point. Yellow jackets construct underground nests with holes near the base of trees or in cracks in pavement. They also build nests in bushes, shrubs, garages, and sheds. Yellow jackets can be aggressive if they feel threatened. 

European Hornets


European hornets are reddish-brown with yellow stripes. They have a pale face and can grow up to 1". Hornets have a pointed body and a wider waist than paper wasps. Their nests are made from wood pulp and have a papery appearance. They are shaped like teardrops and have one entry point. European hornets place their nests six feet or higher above ground and can be found in trees, attics, and wall voids. These hornets aren’t considered aggressive, but they will sting if they sense danger.

Bald-Faced Hornets

Bald-Faced Hornet

Bald-faced hornets can also show up in yards. These hornets have a black body with white markings on their face and body. They grow between 1/2"-3/4". Like European hornet nests, their nests are made from wood pulp with a paper-like appearance. You will often find their teardrop-shaped nests at least three feet above the ground. Bushes, shrubs, fences, and structure overhangs can house their nests. Bald-faced hornets are very protective of their nests and can be aggressive if they feel threatened.

Mud Daubers

Mud dauber

Mud daubers vary in appearance depending on the species. Some mud daubers are black and yellow, while others have a metallic blue coloring. They have a very thin body and grow between 1/2"-1". Mud daubers are solitary insects that don’t live in colonies. They construct their nests from mud, and nests often look like cylinder-shaped tubes. They build nests in sheds, attics, on porch ceilings, and in other sheltered areas. Unlike other insects on this list, mud daubers aren’t very protective of their nest and will rarely sting. 

Carpenter Bees

Carpenter Bee

Carpenter bees have a shiny, black body and range in size from 3/8"-1". Their thorax has fuzzy, yellow hair, but their abdomen doesn’t. These bees get their name from their habit of constructing nests in wood. They prefer to bore into unfinished or decaying wood. Nests can often be identified by a round entrance hole. Male carpenter bees are protective of their nests and will fly around people if they get too close. However, they lack a stinger and won’t be able to sting. Female carpenter bees have a stinger that isn’t barbed, so they can sting multiple times.


Bumblebee on flower

Bumblebees are often seen buzzing around flowers. These bugs are black and yellow with a fuzzy body. They grow between 1/4"-1". Bumblebees prefer to build their nests in hidden spots and can be found above or underground. Hollow logs, piles of rocks, and thick vegetation are common nesting spots. These bees often line their nests with leaves and other debris. Bumblebees are beneficial insects that help to pollinate flowers. These helpful bugs can and will sting to defend themselves and their nest. Like carpenter bees, they are able to sting more than once.

Honey Bees

Honey bee

Honey bees have an orange-brown or black body that is covered in pale hair. They grow between 1/2"-5/8" and are oval-shaped. Honey bees are social insects that live in colonies. Their nests are more recognizable than bumblebee nests. Honey bees construct their hives with wax, and they have clusters of honeycombs. They can be found in sheltered locations including hollow trees and cavities of structures. Like bumblebees, honey bees are beneficial insects and help with pollination. They aren’t aggressive, but they can be defensive. Their stingers are barbed, so they can only sting once.

Not all stinging insects cause problems, but you’ll want to be able to identify the ones that do. Being aware of these bugs and taking precautions can help you avoid a run-in with these stinging insects. If wasps, hornets, or other pests are giving you a fit, we have your back! Check out our Maggie’s Farm Simply Effective™ Pest Control products for a more environmentally and family-friendly solution.

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