Stinging Pest Safety & Saving the Bees: Know Which Stingers Pose a Threat This Summer

Friend or foe? Here's how to spot the difference between harmless stingers—and those to steer clear from this summer.

Stinging Pest Safety & Saving the Bees: Know Which Stingers Pose a Threat This Summer

“Save the bees!”

It’s a phrase you’ve likely heard before over the last decade—a plea to help protect the stingers that are crucial to our ecosystems and keep our plants thriving.

But when environmental activists take up the charge to assist our tiny flying friends, you might be wondering: do they mean ALL types of stingers? And in that case: does that mean that stinging insect pest control is hurting the environment?

The short answer to both of those questions is: no.

Let’s discuss what “save the bees” really means—and how you can participate even while protecting your home from scarier stingers this summer.

Stinging Pests: The Difference Between The Good, The Bad, & The Scary

Some stinging insects are harmless. Some of them are actively aggressive. Some of them play an irreplaceable role in habitats across the US and beyond.

But when you spot efforts to save the bees—what they really mean is save the pollinators!

Pollinator 101

Pollinators do exactly what they sound like: they pollinate! They play an active part in the fertilization of plants. Carrying pollen from one plant to the next, they allow flowers, bushes, and greenery of all kinds to flourish.

There are many different species of pollinators—including birds, butterflies, bats, beetles, and more. But some of the most recognizable (and important) pollinators are bees.

Bumblebees use their fuzzy bodies to collect pollen and distribute it from plant to plant.

Bumble bees, solitary bees, green bees, leaf-cutting bees—and perhaps most notably, the honeybee—are key players in the reproductive process of many types of plants. In New England, growth of native wildflowers, fruit bushes, herbs, and more relies heavily on the presence of bees. These buzzy little critters actually buzz with purpose. The buzzing vibrates pollen off their bodies as they travel from plant to plant.

That’s why, when bee habitats were threatened across the US and beyond, the “save the bees” community became so vocal about raising awareness for declining bee populations. Without them, these important native plants lose their partners in pollination—which could throw entire ecosystems out of balance.

Two of the most common pollinators in New England are bumble bees and honeybees—the latter of which is often mistaken for other more aggressive kinds of stingers. While buzzy bumble bees are easy to spot with their round, fuzzy bodies, honeybees have a cinched, narrower figure that more closely resembles that of two different kinds of stinger: the wasp and the hornet.

Wasps & Hornets

Where honeybees and bumble bees are not aggressive, not territorial, and prefer to simply be left alone in their pursuit of pollination, wasps and hornets are quite the opposite.

Very protective of their homes and quite sneaky in their ability to build them, these two types of stingers can be nasty to try to deal with on your own.

Yellowjackets are a common predatory wasp, known for their aggressive demeanor and painful bites.

That’s not to say, however, that wasps and hornets don’t have their uses. When not invasive, both species can also act as pollinators—and some are even pest control experts in their own right, helping cut down on populations of other critters.

But this summer, the important thing is knowing the difference between each type of stinger, so you can protect yourself from the ones more apt to sting—and help us protect key pollinators so they can do their very important jobs!

Spot Wasps & Hornets by 3 Recognizable Features

Each species of stinger has its own unique characteristics, but there are similarities that wasps and hornets share that help make them distinguishable from bees:

  • Thin, angular bodies. Wasps and hornets can vary in size from species to species, but they tend to share cinched waists and slender figures that help set them apart from rounder bumblebees & honeybees.
  • Long, slender wings. Like their bodies themselves, wasp and hornet wings are also long and thin. They do have two pairs of wings like bees—but the top pair is usually visibly longer.
  • No fuzz. Honeybees are very clearly fuzzy, especially toward their head. Wasps and hornets, on the other hand, look much smoother.
Bald-faced hornets can remember faces and are known for tracking down those they blame for disturbing their peace.

How Honeybees Stand Apart from The Rest

Meanwhile, honeybees stand in contrast with a few unique attributes of their own:

  • Branched hairs. Small hairs all over the body of a honeybee give them that charmingly fuzzy appearance. Even their eyes are surrounded by these tiny hairs!
  • Brown and yellow abdomen. These stripey little critters have alternating red-brown and black bands on their abdomen,
  • Six legs. Did you know that each pair of a honeybee’s legs are actually different? They differ by size and function. For example, the rear pair also has branched hairs to help collect pollen and carry it from flower to flower.
Honeybees travel in large groups—but even in numbers, they are harmless when left undisturbed.

Spotted A Stinger? Found A Nest? Get In Touch for a Free Inspection!

If you spot one or more of the more angular, thinner, hairless stingers we’ve discussed here—or even found a nest on your property, we want to stress the importance of not interfering on your own.

Certain types of wasps and hornets are vengeful little creatures, with the ability to sting multiple times. Honeybees, while they don’t pose much of a threat sting wise (they can only sting once and will only do so if provoked or scared), can also benefit from professional pest intervention—in other words, we can help move these pollinators smoothly and safely.

This summer, keep your eyes peeled for stingers—and pay particular attention to common nest locations. These include but aren’t limited to:

  • Tree branches and shrubs in your yard
  • Under the siding of your home
  • Play structures and basketball hoops
  • Under aboveground pool railings
  • Interior hiding spots like attics or crawl spaces*

*Most commonly seen at the end of summer in late August and early September.

If you need us, we’re here to help—and wish you a sunny, stingless summer.