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Wasps and Bees

Wasps have a slender, shiny body with a narrow waist and cylindrical legs. They appear to be smooth-skinned. Yellow jackets, bald-faced hornets and mud daubers are the most common types of wasps encountered by people.

Bees are important pollinators. They are robust-bodied and very hairy compared to wasps. Their hind legs are flattened for collecting and transporting pollen.

Life Cycles


Wasps have annual colonies that last for only one year. The colony dies in the fall with only the newly produced queens surviving the winter. The new queens leave their nests during late summer and mate with males. The queens then seek out overwintering sites such as under loose bark, in rotted logs, under siding or tile and in other small crevices and spaces where they become dormant. These queens become active again the following spring when temperatures warm up. They search for favorable conditions to construct new nests. They do not reuse old nests.


Honey bees and bumble bees are perennial insects with colonies that survive more than one year. Honey bees form a cluster when hive temperatures approach 57°F. As the temperature drops, the cluster of bees becomes more compact. Bees inside this mass consume honey and generate heat so that those in the cluster do not freeze. As long as honey is available in the cluster, a strong colony can withstand temperatures down to -30°F or lower for extended periods of time.

Nesting Habits

Yellow jackets, bald-faced hornets and paper wasps make nests from a papery pulp composed of chewed-up wood fibers mixed with saliva. The nest starts as a series of rounded combs stacked in tiers. These combs are then covered by an envelope consisting of several layers of pulp. Yellow jackets commonly build nests below ground in old rodent burrows or other cavities. They can also build nests in trees, shrubs, under eaves and inside attics or wall voids. Bald-faced hornets usually create nests in the openings of trees as well as under eaves and along the sides of buildings. Paper wasps often construct nests in sheltered areas such as the eaves of houses or on the branches of trees.

Honey bees make a series of vertical honey combs made of wax. Their colonies are mostly in manufactured hives but they do occasionally nest in cavities of large trees, voids in building's walls or other protected areas. Bumble bees use old mice burrows, cavities in buildings and other locations to make their nests. Like honey bees, bumble bees make cells of wax also.

Food Preferences

Wasps are beneficial because they prey on many insects including caterpillars, flies, crickets and other pests. During late summer and fall they are more interested in collecting sweets and other carbohydrates. Some wasps become aggressive scavengers and may be common around outdoor activities where food or drinks are served.

Bees feed only on nectar (carbohydrates) and pollen (protein) from flowers. Honey bees occasionally visit trash cans and soft drink containers to feed on sugary substances.

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