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Pest Education: Bees, Wasps & Yellow Jackets

In most cases, wasps and bees are beneficial insects;

they help to pollinate crops, feed on nuisance pests, and produce honey.

There are a number of flying, stinging insects that people call bees. Not all of these insects are honey bees; some are paper wasps, mud daubers, yellow jackets, bumble bees, hornets, spider wasps, carpenter bees, plaster bees, among others.



There are actually more than 113,000 species and more than 17,000 are found in North America. California American Exterminator has services to assist your bee, wasp, or yellow jacket infestations and has extensive knowledge on the difference of these insects.


Stinging Insects: How To Tell the Difference

Here are some helpful signifiers to distinguish between different flying & stinging insects:


  • Honey bees are more brownish, and fuzzier, with less well defined bands

  • Honey bees are far less agressive, whereas a wasp with sting multiple targets

  • Wasps have very smooth bodies and legs

  • Wasps feed mostly on proteins (spiders and insects) where bees feed mostly on pollen and nectar

  • Wasps and Yellow jackets, because of their food preferences, are more of a nuisance to man, competing with us for our food and soft drinks

  • Yellow jackets are about the same size as honey bees, and nest in moderate to large-sized colonies

  • Yellow jackets are dark black and bright yellow, with clearly defined black and yellow bands


Honey bees are one of mans oldest insect friends.  If you see a lot of bees flying around flowering plants, they are most likely just foragers visiting the flowers for nectar and/or pollen. Foragers can sting, but generally only do so if they are trapped or crushed. There is little than can be done to deter foraging bees except to remove the flowers.       

Think that you have a flying insect problem?

We would be happy to discuss treatment options and identify the

pest issue your property faces.

Colonies and Treatment Options

If you see a cluster of bees hanging in a tree, ranging in size from a baseball to bigger than a football, it is probably a swarm. Swarming bees are bees that have left their original colony, with the old queen, and are looking for a suitable place in which to form a new permanent nest. Swarms will move on en masse, usually in a few hours to a few days after they land, and usually not a great danger.


If you can see the edges of wax honeycombs sticking out of the cluster, or if it remains in place for a week or more, it is probably an established colony.  If you see many bees coming and going from the same place (usually a hole that leads to their nest cavity), they are probably an established colony, living in nest made of beeswax combs that they build sometimes in wall voids. These are the most troublesome, because they are permanent, and because the bees are more likely to defend their nest by stinging.


It is generally advised to remove established colonies as soon as they have been discovered, because the colony will continue to grow, build more comb, store more honey, and become more defensive. Unfortunately it is not terribly simple to remove an established colony inside a cavity or wall void. In some cases, beekeepers can not get to the hives and when the bees are causing a nuisance in or around a building they must be sprayed. The nests should be removed when ever possible to prevent reinfestation.

Yellow Jackets

Most species typically build their nests underground, so workers will come and go from the nest via an earthen tunnel, which ends in a hole at the soil surface.  Some species forage exclusively on prey such as flies, caterpillars, and other species will forage for meat, garbage and picnic tables. 


They also forage strongly on sources of sugars or carbohydrates such as beer, fruit, and sweet beverages at picnic sites and backyard barbecues. Most serious stinging incidents occur when the nest is accidentally disturbed. Yellow jackets are considered the most dangerous sting insect, due to their ability to sting and bite repeatedly. 


There are two common varieties of wasp in the Bay Area, the Paper Wasp and Mud Dabber. Paper Wasps build their nests of a paper like material while Mud Dabbers build their nests of mud.  Both their nests can be found at rooflines, eves, vents and in trees.


Treatment for wasps include spray and/or dusting treatments and when ever possible, removal of the nest.


Honey Bees

Honeybees are considered a beneficial insect. They are the primary pollinators of fruit and nut trees and many other fruit vegetable and flower crops. They also provide us with liquid gold know as honey.


Occasionally honeybees can become a serious pest when they establish a nest in or on a structure. Nesting areas can include small openings in exterior walls, chimneys, or behind faulty flashing of a home. Honeybees have the ability to sting only one time, which is fatal to the bee. We can destroy the nest, but recommend bee keepers to save them as often as possible.


Pollinators play a vital role in the nation’s food supply chain. With honeybees facing serious issues such as Colony Collapse Disorder, we all must do our part to help protect pollinator health. 


Within the professional pest management industry, products used to address pest infestations – infestations, which can negatively affect public health and property – are an important and essential tool to protect our quality of life. All pest products used within the industry are reviewed and registered with the Environmental Protection Agency and as such, consumers should feel confident that the application of such products by qualified and licensed pest professionals as directed on the product label will be done expertly with no impact on bee health.


In some instances, products can be misapplied either by consumers or untrained technicians who fail to read, or disregard important labels.

Dedicated To Protecting Pollinators


Information adapted from the Pollinator Heath website:

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