Yellow jackets and bees are common in Florida but many people don’t know which insect they’re dealing with when they encounter them. It’s important to know the difference, because their nature is different, as well as their sting. Also, having a nest of yellowjackets in your yard can present a real danger.

Yellowjackets are a type of wasp that nests on the ground, so they are very similar, just a different species. Yellowjackets, wasps and bees are very similar in size but hornets, which is also a type of wasp, is much larger and much more aggressive. They are attracted to sugary drinks and will fly into an open soda can to get to it. In the summer it’s best to pour a drink into a cup or container where you can see what’s in it before you take a swallow.

One method of telling the difference in appearance is that yellow jackets are shiny and smooth with a bright yellow color, while bees are fuzzy with darker brown bands. Bees have a thicker, rounder body but yellowjackets are much thinner in the middle.

Here are a few tips to avoid inviting yellow jackets to your party or home:

  1. Cover your picnic food and bring it out right before it’s time to eat.
  2. An open trash can provides a party atmosphere for yellow jackets, so be sure to keep a lid on it.
  3. Empty and rinse your recycled waste before putting it in the recycling bin.
  4. Keep your doors and windows closed or protected with screens in the spring, summer and fall.
  5. ALWAYS look in your drink before taking a sip outdoors!

Unlike honey bees (who die after the first sting), yellow jackets can sting multiple times without dying. And here’s the kicker: When they sting you, they release a pheromone that attracts more yellow jackets who are maddened by the scent and are driven to sting you as well.

If you spot yellow jackets in your yard, it’s a good idea to follow them to their nest. Yellow jackets build nests in the ground that are only visible as a small hole in the dirt. They also build papery nests up above (suspended under eaves, in trees, or other places overhead.) They rarely inhabit the same nest year after year, so be diligent about locating their new address. Yellow jackets are most active during the day.

If you should realize that you’re dealing with honeybees instead of wasps, the good news is that honeybees aren’t aggressive like wasps are, unless you are invading their nest, step on them or swat at them. The best thing to do is just leave them alone.

Bumblebees, on the other hand, will chase you but the whole colony won’t come after you in a swarm. They’re easy to identify because they’re much larger than honeybees or yellowjackets, and have smaller colonies.

The best course of action if you think you may have a colony of wasps or bees is to give us a call. It’s not easy to get rid of them on your own and they can be very dangerous when they attack. For more information on this service see our bee and wasp removal page.

Thank you to PrettyHandyGirl for the info on yellowjackets.