Both bees and wasps can cause injury (and potentially death for allergic individuals) through their stings. Honey bees can only sting once while female bumble bees are capable of stinging multiple times, but they are usually not aggressive and will only sting if they feel threatened or you stumble upon their hive.
Wasps, on the other hand, are often aggressive when foraging for food and extremely defensive of their colonies. There are several types we commonly deal with in our region, including:
This yellow and black wasp is about ½ inch long and often mistaken for a honey bee. Yellowjackets are extremely aggressive. They can sting repeatedly, inflicting pain and injecting potent venom. Some people have serious allergic reactions to their sting and may require medical attention. Yellowjackets typically nest in the ground but also nest in the voids of man-made structures. A mature nest may contain some 5,000 yellowjackets.
European paper wasps are similar to yellowjackets in color, but have a slimmer, more elongated body shape with orange antennae. Their legs are long and hang down during flight unlike yellowjackets, which tuck in their legs. Northern paper wasps come in a wide range of colors. Compared with yellowjackets, paper wasp colonies are small (several hundred) and usually exposed (have open cells). They nest in areas protected from the elements like under overhangs, around porches, downspouts, in hollow fence posts and electrical boxes.
Sometimes called white-faced hornets, bald-faced hornets are basically robust yellow jackets with white and black coloring. Hornets capture other insects to feed to their developing larvae. Hornets aggressively defend their colonies just like yellowjackets. The hive is a gray paper-like mass that gradually expands throughout the summer until it is about the size and shape of a football with an opening at the bottom. Active nests may contain anywhere from 100 to 700 hornets.
Bald Faced Hornet