Stinging Insect Identification

What are stinging insects?

Many species of stinging insects live in the Greater Bay Area, all equipped with stingers at the end of the abdomen that they use for defense, and some species use to help them capture prey. Some of the most common types of stinging insects that people are familiar with are yellow jackets, hornets, bees, and wasps. Each are eco-important by either pollinating crops or feeding on and controlling populations of nuisance insects. But, despite being helpful, when they decide to take over our yards and homes, they become unwanted pests that pose a danger to people and pets.yellow jackets on porch

Three of the most common stinging insects in our area are listed below.

Bald-Faced Hornets

  • Color: Black with white pattern on face
  • Shape: Long, wasp-like
  • Size: 1/2 – 5/8 inches long; queen 3/4 inches long
  • Region: Found throughout the U.S.
  • Habits: Although not true hornets, Bald-faced hornets are social insects. Their colonies may contain 100—400 members at their peak. Populations are largest during the late summer. Bald-faced hornets usually build their paper nests in shrubs, trees, on overhangs, houses, sheds, utility poles, or other structures three or more feet off the ground.
  • Threats: Bald-faced hornets will attack anything that invades their space. They are able to sting over and over again due to their smooth stingers. Their stings carry venoms that the stings hurt, swell or itch for around 24 hours. Humans are at equal risk of allergic reaction from their stings as with other insect stings.
  • Prevention: Bald-faced hornets are beneficial insects because they help control many pest species. Control is warranted; however, if a nest is close to the ground or near an occupied structure. Routinely inspect the outside of your property for stinging insect nests.

Honey Bees

  • Color: Predominantly golden-yellow with brown bands
  • Shape: Oval; bee shape
  • Size: 1/2 in
  • Region: Found throughout U.S.
  • Habits: Honeybees are active pollinators, and produce honey which feeds their young in colder months. The honeybee is the only social insect whose colony can survive many years.
  • Threats: Honeybees do sting, but they only sting once due to their barbed stinger. The sting can be extremely painful if the stinger is not immediately removed from the sting. Persons allergic to insect stings will have a more severe reaction.
  • Prevention: Honey bee management should be addressed by a professional. Treatment or removal of a honeybee nest and the honey product can be very messy. Because honeybee colonies are so large, only a honey bee pest control professional or experienced beekeeper can safely remove a honeybee nest.

Yellow Jackets

  • Color: Abdomen usually black and yellow patterned similar to band
  • Shape: Wasp-like
  • Size: 3/8 – 5/8 inch long
  • Region: Found throughout the U.S.
  • Habits: Yellowjackets live in nest or colonies. Their nest are usually found in the ground or in cavernous areas such as crawlspaces. Feeding on proteins and sweets they can usually be found around trash and recycling bins. The colony is at its peak in late summer and early autumn.
  • Threats: Yellowjackets are territorial and will sting if they feel that there nest is threatened. They can sting repeatedly and can cause allergic reactions. They are extremely aggressive.
  • Prevention: Wear shoes in grassy areas. Keep trashcans covered and remove garbage frequently. Do not swat at yellowjackets, it will just increase the likelihood an aggressive reaction. Avoid wearing any sweet-smelling perfumes. Make sure your door and window screen are in good condition.

Are stinging insects dangerous?

The venom stinging insects have is strong enough to cause allergic reactions in people. The severity of the reaction depends on how allergic the individual is but can range from mild to life-threatening. The act of being stung is very painful, and a raised red welt is left behind that lasts for hours or days. Having a stinging insect nest in your yard is also problematic because it doesn’t allow you and your pets to enjoy your outdoor space to its fullest.

Carpenter bees are considered dangerous mostly because of the damage they cause to the structure of homes they decide to nest in or on. They create tunnels and nesting galleries in pieces of structural wood, preferring pieces of wood previously damaged by water. Carpenter bees return to the same nesting sites year after year causing more and more damage with each generation.

Another problem or danger associated with stinging insects is the damage a nest built inside of a home can cause. As the nest decays, it attracts hungry insects to your house, can create mold issues, and causes damage to insulation and walls.

Keeping stinging insects out of your home is just as important as keeping them out of your yard!

Why do I have a stinging insect problem?

Things that make a property attractive to stinging insects include:

  • Easy access to water
  • Sheltered areas to build their nests
  • Food for them to forage or hunt

Unfortunately for us, most of our yards make the perfect place for stinging insects to call home. Stinging insects live and breed outside, so keeping them out of our yards is difficult.

The best way to avoid problems with stinging insects is to remove things from your yard that may attract them:


Open trash cans and compost, outdoor eating areas, large amounts of flowering vegetation


Clogged gutters, leaky pipes, and bird baths

Nesting Sites

Overgrown vegetation, woodpiles, overgrown shrubs, and areas of tall grass

Where will I find stinging insects?

Stinging insects build their nests in a variety of places. When they make them in areas that are away from the high traffic areas of our yards and away from our homes, there's usually no concern. It's only when stinging insects place their nests in areas that make it dangerous for us to move around our yard or go in and out of our home that they become a problem.

Less than ideal places where stinging insects build their nests include under shrubs, next to walkways, behind siding or shingles, under decks, in a doorway, in ground holes, or behind wall voids or chimneys.

Where exactly they nest depends on their specific species:


They place outside in shelter spots up off of the ground in trees, under roof eaves, in sheds, garages, or behind wall voids.

Yellow Jackets

They prefer to build nests on the ground under shrubs, woodpiles, or dense vegetation. Yellow jackets also place nests in the ground in the abandoned nests of small animals.


These stinging insects are most likely to build nests on the branches of trees or in the branches of large shrubs or bushes. They also nest under decks and under roof eaves

Carpenter Bees

Females create individual nests in pieces of softwood and untreated pieces of wood. In yards, they nest in trees, wooden playsets, wooden furniture, wooden trim and shingles, and fencing. 

How do I get rid of stinging insects?

If you are ready to get rid of stinging insects from your property, reach out to the local pest control experts at Patriot Pest Management. Our customized services performed by our knowledgeable and friendly experts eliminate pests and stop them from coming back.

At Patriot Pest Management, we won’t hesitate to go the extra mile to ensure that our customers are happy and their properties are free of pests. For exceptional home pest control or commercial pest control services in the Greater Bay Area and surrounding counties of California, contact Patriot Pest Management today!

How can I prevent stinging insects in the future?

Below are some easy to follow tips that will help to keep stinging insects from taking over your home and yard:

  • Avoid attracting insects by avoiding strong-smelling perfumes or lotions when you are going to spend time outside.
  • When outside walking in grassy areas, protect your feet from stings by ground-nesting stinging insects by wearing shoes.
  • Keep stinging insects from entering your home and building nests by sealing any openings in the exterior walls, roofline, or the foundation.
  • Make sure that screens in windows and doors are secure and free of rips.
  • Get rid of their easy access to the exterior of your house by cutting trees branches and shrubbery back away from your roof and exterior walls.
  • Plant garden areas well away from the outside walls of your home.
  • To prevent problems with carpenter bees, make sure to stain or paint wood used in the building of structures on your property.
  • Remove fallen trees and older or decaying fencing and wood furniture from your yard to avoid problems with carpenter bees.

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