How to Identify Bees & Wasps in Southern California

How to Identify Common Kinds of Bees & Wasps in Southern California


Bees and wasps are common pests in Southern California. Both bees and wasps establish hives and nests that are usually located in trees and bushes, but also on house eaves, chimneys, and near windows. In some cases, you can find nests inside walls and inside your attic, or near water valves. 


When a queen of a bee or wasp colony decides she wants to relocate, either because a new queen has been born or the hive or nest has become overly crowded, she will do so with a group of insects to protect her. This group consists of tens of thousands of bees or wasps that swarm around the queen for protection as she relocates from one place to another. 


While the queen is searching for a new place to settle, it is common for the group to stop on fence posts, branches, and under house eaves. They do this to steal a moment of rest or to scout out a new site. 


When bees or wasps visit a rest-stop, it is difficult to know how long the insects will remain. The insects could stay for minutes or days unless the queen decides she’s found the perfect spot, in which case the swarm will start building their new home. 


Both bees and wasps can become aggressive when protecting their queens, hives, and nests. When either insect is threatened, bees and wasps send out pheromones, which alert other insects that there may be trouble. This can signal hundreds of other wasps/bees to attack. 


Being stung by a bee or wasp feels much like a shot you may get at the doctor’s office. However, both bees and wasps can become aggressive, especially when provoked. 


Here are the most common forms of bees and wasps we see in the greater San Bernardino area. And remember, if you notice bees or wasps on your property and you want fast and thorough extermination, call Exile Termite and Pest Control for a free and honest quote. 

Kinds of Bees You May Encounter

Bumble Bees

These fat flying insects may not be very aerodynamic, but they manage to fly, nonetheless. They tend to grow between one-fourth and one inch in size and are known by their characteristic fuzzy bodies and black and yellow markings. 


The insects build their nests from clumps of pollen. The nests are usually located in the ground or in dense grass clumps. In many cases, bumblebees choose to build their nests inside abandoned mouse nests. 


While the insects are considered beneficial because of their ability to pollinate flowers, bumblebees can deliver a painful sting. 

Honey Bees

Honeybees grow between a half-inch and 5/8ths of an inch in size and tend to be a mix of orange and brown or black in color. The insects congregate as a colony and live in hives with mature colonies consisting of anywhere between 20,000 to 80,000 bees at any given time. 


While honeybees are not aggressive, which means that they will not purposefully seek out humans or animals to attack, the bees are defensive in nature. They will usually only attack if you pose a threat to the colony.  

Carpenter Bees

These hardworking bees grow to be a half-inch to a full inch in size. They are sometimes mistaken for bumblebees on account of their fuzzy appearance, but unlike their chubbier cousins, carpenter bees have a shiny and bare abdomen. 


These insects don’t live in nests or colonies. Instead, they prefer to bore into decaying or weathered wood. Once inside, the insects create galleries designed for rearing their young.  


While carpenter bees don’t usually like painted wood, they are still a threat to property and can cause structural damage over time. The males tend to be territorial and may hover in front of your face aggressively, but this is all for show, as male carpenter bees don’t have a stinger. The females have a stinger, but they rarely sting unless provoked. 


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Types of Wasps


Paper Wasp

Paper wasps are black and yellow with a slender body, which often has people mistaking them for yellowjackets. Paper wasps build nests that look like an umbrella. You will typically notice the nests on infrequently used items that shield them from the rain. You may see a paper wasp nest on building overhangs or the ceilings of structures that don’t experience a lot of use. When there are no human structures around, paper wasps build their nests under tree branches or rock outcroppings. 


The paper wasp diet consists of other insects and flower nectar. They are usually only aggressive when you come into close contact with their nests. The sting is said to be more painful than that of the honeybee and can produce allergic reactions on account of their venom. They tend to live in small colonies, however, so threats from paper wasps tend to be relatively low. 

Mud Dauber

Mud dauber wasps are very slender with a waist shaped like a tube. They tend to grow between a half-inch to a full inch in size. The insects tend to be black in color and sometimes metallic blue, though you will sometimes see mud daubers with colorations similar to a bee. 


The females of the species act as the nest builders. Their nests consist of mud that is molded into pipes. 


Like other species of wasps, mud daubers are predators, preferring to feed on spiders. The sting of the mud dauber paralyzes spiders and preserves the arachnids so they can be transported and stored in their nest as food for their young. The insects also eat flower nectar. 


Stings from mud daubers are uncommon, as they are not usually aggressive. Like many other types of bees and wasps, mud daubers can become hostile when threatened. 


We tend to see two species of yellowjackets in Southern California. The native of the species is the western yellowjacket. In 1991, the German yellowjacket got added to our fauna after establishing a home in the Northeastern U.S. in the 1970s. While there are other yellow jacket species, they are not as common as the previous two and are thus not considered to be pests. 


Yellowjackets vs. Paper Wasps vs. Honeybees


To the untrained eye, yellowjackets, paper wasps, and honeybees may look very similar, especially when hovering nearby. Honeybees are mustard yellow and brown in color, and their bodies are covered in tiny pollen-adhering hairs. Their bodies are stocky, and their diet consists of nectar and pollen from flowers. 


Paper wasps have a long body and a thin waist like most other wasps. They are brown and yellow in color, unlike yellowjackets that are black and yellow. Paper wasp nests are constructed under house eaves, in the bushes, or in empty boxes and pots. Their nests are small and tend to consist of only a single layer of comb for rearing their young. 


Yellowjackets can be mistaken for honeybees because they are stockier than paper wasps, but they’re not hairy like honeybees. Instead, they have a smooth abdomen.  


The insects typically build their nests underground. In fact, you may notice worker yellowjackets coming and going via earthen tunnels, which reveal themselves as tiny holes in the soil. 


Yellow jackets are carnivorous like paper wasps and tend to feed on meat, garbage, and other insects like flies and caterpillars. 


It’s common for yellowjackets to try and invade picnics and backyard barbecues, as they tend to prefer sugars and carbohydrates, such as sweet beverages and even beer. 


Yellowjackets only sting when their nests are disturbed. Out of all stinging insects, yellowjackets are considered the most dangerous. This is because of their tendency to deliver painful and repeating stings and bites.


Get Bee & Wasp Pest Control in San Bernardino, California


Bee and wasp stings are not fun, especially if you are allergic. Get the pest control you need by contacting Exile Termite & Pest Control in San Bernardino and serving all of Southern California. We can exterminate your bees and wasps to put an end to the stinging insects existing on your property. Call us now and tell us about your bee or wasp problem to receive a free and honest quote. Our specialized treatments can exterminate your pest problem fast, guaranteed.  

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