Difference between wasps and bees

Many people report sightings of wasps (particularly early season April/May) which are actually honey bees or solitary bees (mortar and mining bees). Bees are often confused with wasps because they have a similar shape. However, wasps have distinct yellow/black bands around the abdomen whereas bees have a more non-descript light brown/browny-yellow colour.


Honey bees are social insects and live in a nest which may contain several thousand workers. Unlike wasps and bumble bees, the honey bee's nest survives for many years.


If you are unsure as to whether you have a wasp's nest or bee's nest you should look carefully at the brickwork to see if they are going in or out of a single hole/air brick or investigating several holes over an area wider than one foot.


Wasps will use a single hole but mortar bees will investigate several. A further test is whether or not the activity continues on cold overcast days or just warm sunny days. Mortar bees will only be active on sunny days.


Although honey bees are capable of stinging, they are generally not aggressive and will not sting unless provoked. Bees should, preferably, be left alone. They may however be dealt with on an eradication service in extenuating circumstance, for example if they are in a location that could be dangerous to the public and they are unlikely to move on in the immediate future.


A beekeeper may be requested to remove a swarm if it is located outdoors and is accessible. Please note, however, that this is a voluntary service for which the beekeepers may require a contribution to their travelling costs.


However, if the swarm has already moved into a building (for example chimneys or airbricks) a beekeeper would not be able to retrieve them and the only means of removal would be destruction by a pest control operative.


To discuss any pest identification or to arrange a treatment please view our Fees and bookings page.

Exclusive video

Watch our exclusive video to see one of our Environmental Officers treating a wasps' nest:


Where to get help

To find out how to get help with wasps or bees, please see our related pages (below).


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