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Bees vs. Hornets

What’s the Difference Between Bees and Hornets?

While they’re both stinging insects, bees and hornets have several key differences. The pests are visually distinct and often nest in different places, though they present a similar danger when colonies take up residence in yards.

Bee vs. Hornet Appearance

The features of individual bee and hornet species can vary, but there are some general ways to tell these two types of stinging insects apart.

  • Shape – Most bees, especially bumble bees, tend to be stout with rounded bodies. Hornets are usually longer and slenderer than bees.

  • ColorBumble bees and honey bees have orange-yellow, black, or tan stripes. Carpenter bees have special coloration, often appearing black or metallic green or blue. Hornets, on the other hand, have mostly brown bodies with yellow stripes or hints of red. However, the bald-faced hornet, which actually is closely related to yellow jackets and not true hornets, is blackish grey with white markings on their face, thorax, abdomen and legs.

  • Texture – Perhaps the easiest way to tell the difference between hornets and bees is whether they look furry. Bees appear fuzzy, while hornets have less or no hair.

Bee Illustration


Hornet Illustration


Where to Find Hornets vs. Bees

Where Do They Live?

The location of the nest can be helpful when it comes to identifying bee vs. hornet infestations. Knowing where to look may also keep homeowners from accidentally disturbing a colony, which typically leads the pests to attack.

Hornet Nests

Nesting habits depend on the species of hornet, but these pests gravitate toward similar areas. For example, wall voids and attics often house colonies. These stinging insects also construct nests in roof eaves and tree hollows.

Bee Nests

Honey bees show a slight preference for nesting in natural cavities over spaces in homes, though they will live in either. The majority of bees are actually ground nesters. Species like bumble bees frequently take shelter in abandoned, underground rodent burrows. Carpenter bees keep special nesting habits. This pest tunnels into untreated wood.

Is There a Difference in the Dangers of Bees vs. Hornets?

The major problem with both of these pests is their ability to sting. The only true hornet in the U.S., the European hornet, is quite large and will defend its nest against attack. However, like most bees, these insects are not especially aggressive. Only a few species of either pest, such as Africanized honey bees and bald-faced hornets – not a true hornet – have a reputation for greater hostility.

If the placement of a hornet or bee nest doesn’t threaten people, the insects can generally be left alone. Bees pollinate plants and crops, while hornets prey on many pests. However, colonies close to or inside homes can pose health risks to residents. The stings of both pests can trigger life-threatening allergic reactions in some people.

Controlling Infestations

No matter which stinging insect is present, homeowners should not try to deal with the pests alone. Approaching a nest could incite these insects to defend their colony. Instead, contact the professionals at Orkin in the case of bee or hornet issues.

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