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Identifying the Differences Between Wasps and Bees

Despite what you might believe, not everything that buzzes around your garden is a pest. Most are useful pollinators, helping your garden thrive. Not just your garden benefits from buzzing critters. Many agricultural crops are dependent on pollination from things that go buzz. 

There are thousands of species of flying insects, and the majority are not classed as pests, nor will they cause many problems for people outdoors. Recently, there have been news stories cropping up about ‘murder hornets’, but realistically, you won’t find one in your garden. 

But how can you identify the pests from the non-pests, and how do you tell the difference between wasps and bees? Well here’s a handy guide. 

Differences Between Wasps and Bees


There are more than 9,000 species of wasp in the UK, but only a few ever come into contact with humans. It’s important to know which ones are dangerous, and which ones are harmless. It’s sometimes tricky to tell the difference between wasps and bees as certain species can look similar.

Here’s a list of some of the most common species and there identifying features.

The Common and the German Wasp 

Differences Between Wasps and Bees

Wasps in their own right can be a complex and dangerous issue to contend with. More often than not, wasps become threatened easily and will become aggressive very quickly. 

Going anywhere close to their nest could result in you getting stung, which can be a huge issue when they have taken up residence in your back garden. 

The common wasp and the German wasp are pretty much identical visually and behave in similar ways. The only distinction is a slight difference on their heads, with a slight difference in colouration. 

Both species are socialites and have a single Queen that produces between 3,000 and 8,000 workers per any one nest. You can usually expect each nest to be the size of a football and they will often nest in trees, roofs, or in the ground. 

Red Wasp

red paper wasp

Red wasps are slightly different in shape and colour to the Common and German Wasp, and mostly never come into contact with humans. 

Easy to tell apart because of the red tinge on their abdomen, these wasps are worker wasps and mostly pollinate flowers. They build nests underground and are small in number, with nests holding only 300 wasps at a time. 

Wood wasp

A wood wasp

The most noticeable difference with wood wasps is their unusually large stinger, as well as slight colouration difference to Common Wasps. To many the tree wasp looks like a large Common Wasp, but importantly – they are harmless to humans. 

Known for their love of pine wood, females lay eggs in pine trees where it takes the larvae up to five years to develop. In some cases, it has been known for tree wasps to emerge from pine furniture! 

Help with Wasps

Wasps should only be dealt with by a professional. It is not advised to deal with them using DIY methods. Wasp stings can be incredibly painful and, in some people, can cause anaphylaxis, which may lead to death unless treated. 

The team at Confirm a Kill are experts at Wasp Control and can tackle any wasp problems you may have. Contact us today for a free quote


There are many different varieties of bee in the UK, many of whom are rightfully viewed affectionately by the general public. Bees rarely present problems to humans if left undisturbed. However, feral swarms can invade undesirable locations such as chimneys and porch roofs. 

Here’s how to identify the most common breeds…


Early bumblebee

Whilst you may think there is only one type of bumblebee, there are actually 25 different types in the UK. 

All bumblebees live in a colony with a queen and her offspring. Perhaps the most loved species of bee, they rarely have a problem with humans unless threatened in any significant way. The most common bumblebees are: 

  • Common carder bee
  • Early bumblebee
  • Red-tailed bumblebee
  • Small garden bumblebee
  • Tree bumblebee
  • White-tailed bumblebee

All bumblebees are fantastic pollinators and without them many crops and plants simply wouldn’t grow. 

They usually make their nests close to the ground out of grass, piles of wood or other garden material. If you spot a nest close-by, but not close enough to invade your space, they will usually move on within 10 weeks. 



Honeybees make honey from the pollen and nectar collected from flowers. They live in large colonies, with one queen per colony. 

They are distinct, and are usually a golden colour, with black stripes. 

Many honeybees are kept by beekeepers, so it’s possible that honeybees in your garden are from a local hive kept by someone. In the wild though, they are usually found nesting in hollow trees. 

Ivy Bee

The differences between wasps and bees - ivy bee

The Ivy bee was first recorded in the UK back in 2001, so as things go, it’s one of the newest bees to be discovered to inhabit in the UK. 

These bees are quite deceiving, looking very much like “a hairy Common wasp” but do not be fooled. It has a golden mid-section which contains fine hair, and yellow and black stripes on its abdomen.

These bees are very similar to honeybees and behave in a similar way. The only difference being that they only feed on the nectar of the ivy flower, usually seen when it’s in bloom around September onwards. 

Help with Bees

If left undisturbed, bees will usually not cause any issues, if their nests are away from where you spend your time in the garden. If they are starting to cause problems, then you’ll need to call in a professional with experience in bee removal

Bees can also cause problems with the structural integrity of a building if a large nest is in roof rafters or similar. As an important part of our ecosystem, bees will always be dealt with in the most humane way possible, preserving life being important. 

Get in touch with us to see how we can help with bees.


Differences Between Wasps and Bees - Hoverflies

There are more than 250 species of hoverfly in the UK, but don’t worry, we’ll not go through all of them. 

The key thing to remember here, is that hoverflies do exactly as their name says, they hover. 

Whilst many bear striking features that are similar to those of a wasp or a bee, they do not pose any threat to humans and cannot sting us. So, if you see a hovering wasp, more than likely, it’s a hoverfly. 

Differences Between Wasps and Bees Summary?

We hope this post on the differences between bees and wasps has been useful. Next time you’re in the garden and you hear a buzzing you should be able to quickly identify the type of insect.

Confirm a Kill has been operating for nearly 30 years. We pride ourselves on being able to remove all pests safely. 

If you have a pest problem, get in touch for a free quote here.

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