WASP AND BEE SPECIES

There may be hundreds of species of wasps, hornets and bees found around the world. Only a few of these are seen as natural pests here in the United Kingdom, and some of them do not sting.

Some species, like the Honey Bee, are a valuable part of our ecosystem. Understanding their habits, lifecycle, and appearance can help identify the best form of wasp control for your home or business.

See our list below of common species in the United Kingdom.

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European Wasp and English Wasp

(Family: Vespidae, e.g. Vespula Vulgaris & Vespula germanica)

These are the two commonly found wasp species in NSW, Vic, and Tasmania responsible for causing painful wasp stings.

Once indoors, they prefer to build nests in sheltered locations with easy access to the outside, such as lofts, garages and wall cavities. Outside they may nest in old rodent burrows, hollow trees and bushes.

European Wasp

Appearance

  • Yellow and black body marking varies according to species.
  • Workers vary in size from 12 – 17mm.

Key Facts

  • Only young Queens survive over winter and emerge in the spring to start nest building and lay eggs.
  • Workers (sterile females) emerge during early summer and take over nest building. Queen continues to lay eggs.
  • New queens and males mate in early autumn.
  • Nest dies during winter, including all the males and workers.
  • Wasps do not swarm.
  • Food preferences — will take insects and sweet foods.
  • Females sting readily and repeatedly.
  • A colony may have as many as 25,000 individual wasps.

Honey Bee

(Apis Mellifera)

Honey bees are the species kept by Bee Keepers.

If you have a problem with honey bees, contact a local Bee Keeper or Environmental Health Department as they will be able to arrange for the swarm to be relocated.

honey bee

Key Facts

  • They live in hollow trees or chimneys, wall cavities or roof spaces.
  • They are similar in size to wasps but are furrier and mostly black.
  • Honey bees convert nectar into honey and beeswax.
  • A honey bee swarm will arrive in flight and cluster on a tree branch.
  • A colony size can often be more significant than 30,000 individual honey bees.
  • Population under threat from varroa mite.

Solitary Bee

(Osmia rufa)

solitary bee

Appearance

  • Often similar to the honey bee.

Lifecycle

  • Colony size – small nests which are individually tended by a female.
  • Preferred nest sites – often in soil, sometimes in soft cement and mortar between bricks.
  • Nest construction – various materials. Usually, a new nest each year.

Habits

  • Swarming – does not swarm.
  • Overwintering – usually in the pupal stage within the nest.
  • Food preferences – honey and pollen.
  • Rarely stings.

Mortar Bee

(Amegilla sp.)

These bees are masonry or mortar bees because they like to nest in crevices or holes in masonry. They prefer to stay near walls that receive sunshine for much of the day.

Mortar bees use naturally occurring holes in bricks or mortar joints (especially mortar with a high lime or sand content).

Mortae Bee

Key Facts

  • Mortar bees are harmless; they are not aggressive and will not attack.
  • They include the wool-carder bee, the mining bee, the hairy-footed flower-bee, the leafcutter bee and the red mason bee.

Yellow Jackets (Social Wasp)

(Vespula)

yellow jacket

Appearance

  • Worker – 1/2 inch long.
  • Queen – 3/4 inch long.
  • Alternating black and yellow bands.
  • Two sets of wings.
  • Narrow waist.
  • Lance-like stinger.

Lifecycle

  • Annual colonies.
  • Queen begins to nest in Spring.
  • Aggressive numbers in late Summer.
  • Colonies begin to decline by Fall.
  • Only inseminated Queen’s nest over Winter.

Habits

  • Feeding – at certain times of the year, feed on insects, including caterpillars / harmful flies; as colonies increase, they are attracted to food consumed by humans.
  • Sting – sting repeatedly, will sting if provoked with symptoms range from swelling to life-threatening allergic shock.
  • Visibility – visible during the day as they don’t see well at night.
  • Nesting – in trees/shrubs, or internally in attics, hollow walls/ flooring, sheds, under porches/eaves of buildings.

Carpenter Bees

(Xylocopa virginica)

carpenter bee

Appearance

  • 3/4 – 1 inch long.
  • Female faces are black; male faces are yellow.
  • Bright yellow, orange or white hairs on the thorax.
  • No hair on the abdomen.
  • Females have a stinger; males do not.

Lifecycle

  • Tunnel into the wood to lay eggs.
  • The life cycle from the egg – larva – pupa – adult takes approximately seven weeks.
  • The larva is large and noisy.
  • New adults emerge from the nest in late August.

Habits

  • Sting – Only sting if provoked.
  • Visibility – Late spring to mid-October.
  • Nesting – Bare, untreated softwoods are preferred, including redwood, cedar, cypress and pine. Old nests are used year after year.
  • Location – Nests can be found in eaves, window trims, facia boards, siding, decks and outdoor furniture.
  • Feeding – flowers that contain pollen, e.g. Bradfords, Daffodils, Pansies. Pollen stored in abandoned tunnels for overwintering.