Wasps, Bees and Stingers: Oh My!

Which flying insect leaves a stinger and which does not?

My family was having a debate over bees and wasps and which one leaves a stinger and which can sting you again.  I decided to do a little research and this is what I found:

There are different kinds of wasps and bees! Some leave their stingers and some don’t.  It is beneficial to know the different types in your area.

Let’s start with bees

Bees are plump, mild-mannered and can be found around flowers.

Bumble bees can sting more than once; they can pull their stinger out without hurting themselves. 

Honey bees have a barb on the stinger that hooks in the skin. The stinger is connected to the digestive system of the honey bee and pulls out of the bee.  The honey bee soon dies after stinging.  You need to get the stinger and venom gland out of your skin.  Do not use two fingers to remove the stinger as you will force more venom into your skin.  Try a fingernail.

Carpenter bees are found mostly in Eastern United States.  They look like a big yellow and black bumble bee.  The male carpenter bee has no stinger and the female rarely stings.

Next, wasps

Wasps are thin, aggressive and can be found around garbage cans and food.  Wasps can sting more than once without injury to themselves.  If a wasp comes near you, do not swing at it or run away. Stand still then slowly move away.

Giant Hornet is a wasp found in eastern US.  It is reddish brown and yellow and 1″ long.

Paper Wasps can sting repeatedly but are non-aggressive. They are about 1″ long and are slender with long legs and may be reddish-orange to dark brown or even black.

Stinging wasp has a dark abdomen with yellow bands around it.  

The common Yellowjacket can be found in northeastern United States and Canada and are capable of stinging again and again.  They are yellow and black with a few hairs and are small.

Mud-Daubers are easy to identify; they look like a wasp but have a thread-like middle. These can not sting.They are usually black and yellow but there are also black and metallic blue-black around as well.

The Baldfaced hornet is a large, heavy, black and white wasp

The word ‘hornet’ is often used for wasps.  The only true hornet found in the US is the European hornet. European hornets resemble yellow jackets but are larger with brown and yellow marking. They also like to fly at night.

Treatment of stings varies. Taking an antihistamine helps with swelling and redness.  

Image by (Bill and Mavis) – B&M Photography via Flickr

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One Response to “Wasps, Bees and Stingers: Oh My!”
  1. Jo Oliver Says...

    On May 20, 2009 at 10:27 pm

    Good info. Some are hard to tell apart.


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