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Stinging Insects 101 – How to Identify & Remove the Pest

Stinging insects such as wasps, hornets, yellowjackets and bees are common summertime/warm weather pests that often pose a threat to humans and animals alike. For some, these threats can be deadly depending on the type of allergic reaction experienced. For those who do not experience allergic reactions to individual stings, there is still the potential for adverse responses from multiple stings; therefore caution should still be utilized when dealing with stinging insects. Insect stings result in more than more than half a million people being sent to the emergency room each year.

Regular inspections of your property in Colorado Springs are one of the best ways to protect your family from increased risk of stinging insect activity around your home. Routinely walk the exterior perimeter of your home inspecting for visible nests. It is important to thoroughly inspect eaves, soffits, overhangs and the underside of decks and porches for visible nests. One thing that many people forget during these inspections is that it is not only visible nests that pose a threat. Stinging insects are notorious for creating nests that are not visible from the exterior of the structure. Be sure to pay close attention to any stinging insects that you may see around the exterior of your home as you inspect. If you are consistently seeing activity in a given area, there is likely to be a nest nearby. Are you seeing the stinging insects landing and walking on the structure? Stand clear and watch where they may be going. Gaps, cracks and holes large enough for a stinging insect to enter is all that is needed to allow the potential for an internal nest. An active colony on a hot day will resemble a small airport with activity consistently coming and going. Trees, bushes, shrubs, sheds/outbuildings, children’s play equipment and all outdoor items such as patio furniture and grills should also be inspected during this time. In the event that you encounter a visible nest or potential entry point we recommend contacting a pest control professional for assistance as they have the proper equipment and training to properly assess and mitigate the problem.

Stinging Insect Guide Colorado SpringsSome stinging insects pose a more serious threat than others and some are even considered beneficial; therefore, knowing how to identify the type of stinging insect present can help you determine the urgency in which you need to have them addressed. Your pest control professional can also assist you in completing this task if you are uncomfortable doing so. Below is our guide on some of the many species of stinging insects commonly encountered around homes.

Honey Bees

Typically ½ to 5/8 of an inch in length, honey bees are typically a dull orange to brown or black in color. They have a fuzzy appearance that easily distinguishes them from wasps, yellowjackets and hornets. They are considered to be highly social with mature colony sizes of up to 80,000 members. Although they are capable of stinging, honey bees are not aggressive and only sting in defense if they feel they or their colony is being threatened. Honey bees are considered highly beneficial pollinators and require special care in the event they have created a nest at your property. It is not advised to exterminate a honey bee colony as their numbers have decreased significantly in recent years. Relocation is recommended for honey bee colonies as well as the extraction of their honey and nest due to the potential attraction to the food source by other insects. Many beekeepers and professionals specialize in the relocation and extraction of honey bee colonies.

Bumble Bees

Bumble bees are ¼-1 inch in length with vibrant yellow/bright orange, black and sometimes red markings. They have an overall fuzzy appearance and build their nests out of pollen clusters, often in the ground or a dense grass clump. They may even take over an abandoned rodent nest. Bumble bees are considered beneficial as they pollinate flowers. They are not typically aggressive unless threatened; however, they do still have the ability to sting and a nest located in close proximity to a home may deem control as a necessary measure.

Carpenter Bees

Carpenter bees are roughly ½-1 inch in length. They resemble bumble bees with the exception of the top of their abdomen which is bare and shiny. These bees do not live in nests or colonies. Instead, they bore into wood, where they create galleries in which to raise their young. They do tend to prefer decaying/rotting or weathered wood over new or painted wood. Carpenter bees do pose a threat of property/structural damage over time if they are not controlled. Male carpenter bees are territorial and may hover aggressively in front of one’s face; however, they lack a stinger and this display is all for show. Females on the other hand have a potent sting, although they rarely use it.

Bald-faced Hornets

Bald-faced hornets are fairly large in size. They are primarily black in color with a mostly white face. Body markings are yellow or white in color. Bald-faced hornets build aerial nests out of paper like material. These nests are mostly in exposed locations such as tree branches, utility poles, overhangs or other structures and may grow to 14 inches in diameter and 24 inches in length. Although they are considered to be beneficial due to their hunting of many pest insects, they can be aggressive especially if their nest is being threatened.

European Hornets

At ¾-1inch in length, European Hornets are large in size. They are reddish-brown with yellow abdominal stripes and a pale face. They build paper carton nests with a brown exterior “envelope” for protection. Nests are commonly found in hollow trees, barns, wall voids, attics and outbuildings. They are considered beneficial due to their feeding on pest insects; however, a nest in or near a structure warrants control.  European hornets may be aggressive when threatened.

Mud Daubers

Mud Daubers are solitary wasps and do not live in colonies. Usually black in color, they may have pale markings or a blue metallic luster to their body and wings. Mud daubers are long and slender. Only females construct nests which are made of mud and often resemble the pipes on a pipe organ. They consist of several short (roughly 1 inch long) tubes which are constructed side-by-side. Nests are commonly found in sheltered areas such as under eaves, porch ceilings, protected building walls, attics, and inside of garages, sheds and outbuildings. Rarely aggressive, mud daubers are considered beneficial for their control of spiders.

Paper Wasps

Paper wasps are brownish in color with yellow or reddish colored markings. They get their name from the paper like material from which they build their nests. Paper wasps nests are usually umbrella shaped and are never enclosed. They are commonly found hanging from twigs/branches of trees or shrubs, from eaves, decks, railings and porch ceilings. They can be considered beneficial for their control of pest insects. Paper wasps are not overly aggressive; however, touching/disturbing their nest will result in the high likelihood of being stung.


Yellowjackets are bright yellow and black in color and roughly 3/8-5/8inch in length. Nests are constructed of paper carton and can grow to roughly the size of a basketball. Their nests are layered and may contain a number of rounded paper combs covered with multiple layers of outer envelope for protection. Nest location will depend on the species of yellowjacket. Some will be found in or at ground level while others will be aerial nests hanging from eaves, patio ceilings, etc. Yellowjackets are known to be highly aggressive if their nest/colony is threatened or if they feel they are under attack. Swatting at stinging insects may provoke them and result in them stinging. Although yellowjackets may help to effectively control pest insects, they are also likely to visit picnics, barbeques and hang out around trash cans as they forage for food.

Velvet Ants

Velvet ants are not really ants at all. They get their name from their wingless females which have more of an ant-like appearance. Females are the only ones with stingers and pack a potent punch with their sting which earned them the nickname “cow killers”. Males have wings, but do not have the ability to sting. Both genders of the species are very hairy and black in color with patches of colored hairs that may be red, orange, yellow or white. Females tend to be brighter in color than males. Velvet ants may live in abandoned ground level wasp or bee nests or may build their nest in bare or sandy soil. Female velvet ants should not be handled.

Remember, dealing with stinging insects should be left to a licensed pest control professional. They can assist you in determining assessing the threat and the best way to eliminate the problem. If you are in need of help in Colorado Springs, call us to schedule your visit today.