The unmistakable buzzing of a bee has been known to instill terror in otherwise completely rational adults. Whether it’s frantic arm waving, dancing and dodging, or a full-fledged panic attack, some people react to bees with unmistakable fear. But the question is: Should we be afraid of bees?

The answer isn’t so simple, as there are a few misconceptions about bees that need to be cleared up.

First, there are two different types of bees in our region: the honeybee and the bumblebee. They differ in their size, color, and general habits. Neither bee species typically attacks humans unprovoked, but they are both capable of stinging.

Secondly, many people mistakenly refer to all stinging insects as bees, but, in reality, wasps and hornets differ immensely from bees. These buzzing insects are aggressive, have distinct appearances, and pose a bigger threat to humans, homes, and businesses.

Read on to learn more about how these busy insects differ.


As stated above, there are two types of bees in our region. Honeybees are typically amber or brown with black stripes and short furry hair, while bumblebees are larger, have yellow and black stripes, and sport longer furry hair. They both feed on nectar and pollen from flowers, but only honeybees can create a large enough store of honey in their hives for humans to collect.

Bees are also integral to many ecosystems as they pollinate plants, helping gardens, farms, and orchards flourish in the warmer months. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), honeybees contribute $15 billion each year to U.S. agriculture. Further, the USDA speculates that one out of every three bites of food can be attributed to bees.

Although bees are capable of stinging, they’ll only do so if provoked to defend themselves or the colony. It’s a last resort defense mechanism, as bees will die after stinging. When a bee stings, it releases pheromones alerting other bees that danger is close to the hive. A situation with one bee can quickly escalate into a situation with many bees in a few minutes.

Wasps & Hornets

These two carnivorous insects have similar hairless bodies, but hornets are a little bit larger. The most common wasp in North America is referred to as the yellow jacket – a yellow and black insect with a pattern that closely resembles that of a bumblebee. Both wasps and hornets are carnivorous, feasting on other insects, but they’re also attracted to rotting fruit and food.

Unlike bees, wasps and hornets don’t build hives. Instead they live in nests either above or below ground. They can live under porches or steps, in sidewalk cracks, at the base of trees, and even inside walls. They are incredibly aggressive and if they sense danger, they can chase people up to a quarter mile away. Wasps and hornets are also capable of multiple stings, and stinging doesn’t cause them to die.

Be Wary Of The Sting

A sting is more than just painful. It can cause severe allergies in some individuals. The normal reaction to a sting – be it by a bee, a wasp, or a hornet – is pain, swelling, and redness around the sting site. In a few cases, swelling may spread (i.e. a sting on the ankle may spread to the whole leg), but that is no more serious.

Allergic reactions are very serious and require swift medical attention. Symptoms include difficulty breathing, dizziness, difficulty swallowing, rapid pulse, and other alarming side effects. About 2 million Americans have allergies to the venom of stinging insects. Though it’s uncommon, these insects should still be cause for concern.

We’re Here To Help

If you have an issue with bees, wasps, or hornets on your property, the best action is to call the professionals. At Ehrlich Pest Control, formerly Connor’s, we offer full-service packages that include humane and eco-friendly identification, extermination, and prevention techniques. So before you find yourself face-to-face with a swarm of insects, give us a call today.

Bee Informed: What’s Buzzing Around You? in Virginia

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