Distinguishing Bees, Wasps, Yellowjackets and Hornets

Appearance Habits Nests Feeding Behavior
Bees Hairy, stout bodies with thick waists; workers & reproductives are winged Noisy flight; sting mainly while defending nest; foraging workers seldom sting In hives, trees, or buildings Collect pollen and nectar, feed pollen to young & share food with other adult bees
Wasps Bodies vary; all winged Colorful, rapid fliers; solitary & social varieties Aerial or ground nests; can also be in structures Scavengers and/or predators
Solitary wasps Thin- or thick-waisted Visit flowers & other vegetation; relatively docile In mud, or in holes in ground Predators; provision nests with prey for young to feed on
Yellowjackets and Hornets Stout, colorful Rapid fliers; aggressive; individuals capable of inflicting multiple stings; social in large colonies which they defend vigorously Multi-layered, papery nests mostly in ground, although some aerial or in structures; nests have an outer papery covering called an "envelope" Mostly beneficial predators, but scavenger species become pestiferous
Paper (umbrella) wasps Long bodies with thin waists, long dangling legs Social; search vegetation for prey; visit flowers for nectar; not particularly aggressive Single layered, papery nests without an envelope; attached to fences, eaves, boards, branches; shaped like an umbrella Beneficial predators; feed prey to developing young in nest

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