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Honey Bees

honey been on a flower outside west palm home

What do honey bees look like?

Honey bees are often mistaken for bumble bees and vice versa but in reality, they’re quite different looking.  Honey bees are slender, more wasp-like, moderately hairy and approximately 1/2” in length.  Bumble bees are typically larger, have a more rounded shape and are very hairy. 

When are honey bees most active?

Honey bees are most active during the spring and summer months.

What attracts honey bees?

Honey bees are attracted to flowers for their nectar and pollen. Some soaps and perfumes may attract honey bees as well. 

Where are you likely to find honey bee hives?

Honey bees tend to nest in tree hollows but may also nest in wall voids and attics.   

Are honey bees dangerous or destructive?

Honey bees are beneficial insects as they are pollinators of flowers as well as vegetable and fruit crops. Additionally, honey bees make honey and produce beeswax.  Unfortunately, they can be dangerous.  Some people are allergic to honey bee stings and may need medical attention.  Unlike wasps, honey bees only sting once because their stingers have barbs.  The stinger and the poison sac remain in the skin. 

A honey bee nest inside a building can result in structural damage as well. 

Africanized Honey Bees (aka Killer Bees)

africanized honey bee flying around jupiter home

What do Africanized honey bees look like?

The “Killer Bee” is actually a type of African Honey bee. In 1957, it was accidentally released in Brazil during a science experiment. It began to move north and reached Mexico in the 1980s. It can now be found in abundance in the southwestern U.S. and moving steadily but slowly to the North and East.  These honey bees are very similar in appearance to other types of honey bees, making identification difficult.

What attracts Africanized honey bees?

South Florida’s climate is very appealing to these bees but their presence here is still relatively small.

Are Africanized honey bees dangerous or destructive?

These bees react very quickly to perceived danger 50 feet or more from the nest, attack in large numbers, and swarm for long periods of time. Their sting is toxic and because they swarm and sting in large numbers, the resulting damage can be toxic poisoning and even death. Avoid all bee nests or swarms and call a professional for removal.

What to do if you are attacked by Africanized honey bees

Run away as fast as possible, covering your face and head as you run.  Get into a closed building or vehicle if you can and call 911 immediately.  Don’t stop to remove stingers until you are safely away from the attacking bees. When you are away from the bees, start removing stingers from your skin. You can remove them by scraping, pulling, or using sticky tape. Do not leave the stingers in any longer than necessary, as they will continue to pump venom.  Don’t jump into water. The bees will wait for you to come up for air.  Don’t panic.

Extracted from a compilation by Keith S. Delaplane, Extension Entomologist (

Paper Wasps

paper wasp outside it's nest near tequesta home

What do paper wasps look like? 

Paper wasps are 5/8″ to 1″ in length and are brown with yellow, circular striping.  Paper Wasps build umbrella shaped nests under ledges, eaves, in air conditioning units and inside foliage. Their nests are constructed of paper-like materials derived from chewed wood materials.

When are paper wasps most active? 

Paper wasps are most active starting in late spring with heaviest activity in late summer.

What attracts paper wasps?

Paper wasps feed on a variety of insects and arthropods. 

Where are you likely to find a paper wasp nest?

Tree limbs, building overhangs and eaves, beams and supports in attics are common places to find paper wasp nests.  They are also found on outbuildings including barns and sheds.

Are paper wasps dangerous or destructive?

Paper wasps are the least aggressive wasp and typically live in close proximity to humans without aggressive displays. They can act defensively within their perceived territory so be sure to give the nest some room. Paper wasp stings can be painful and can cause an allergic reaction in some individuals.


Yellow Jackets

yellow jacket around south florida home

What do yellow jackets look like?

Yellow jackets are 5/8″ to 1″ in length and are black and yellow or black and white. They fold their wings lengthwise when at rest. 

When are yellow jackets most active?

Like paper wasps, these stinging insects are also most active in the late summer when their numbers are greatest. 

What attracts yellow jackets?

As is the case with all wasps, yellow jackets prey on a wide variety of insects and other arthropods. Yellow jackets are unusual in that workers also forage on foods consumed by people, especially sweets and meats.

Where are you likely to find a yellow jacket nest?

Yellow jacket nests are usually located underground in old rodent burrows, in wood piles or in walls and attics of buildings.  Occasionally they are built in trees or in other places in the open.

Are yellow jackets dangerous or destructive?

Yellow jackets are very aggressive and dangerous but typically will not attack unless provoked. Avoid disturbing the nest or attempting to remove it yourself. Yellow jacket stings are often painful and many people are allergic to their stings.



hornet outside jupiter fl home

What do hornets look like?

Baldfaced hornets are roughly 1″ to 1 ½” in length, and closely resemble yellow jackets in appearance.  The primary difference between hornets and yellow jackets is that hornets are aggressive towards humans. Fierce, vigilant, and unpredictable, these stinging insects will attack people simply for walking past their nests.

When are hornets most active?

Baldfaced hornets are most active in the spring and summer months with activity the highest in the late summer.

What attracts hornets?

Hornets are prolific insect eaters.  In fact, they help to control the population of flies and caterpillars.

Where are you likely to find hornet nests?

Hornets build their nests from paper and suspend them from trees or structures.  Typically, two or three sentry hornets continuously circle the nest, constantly on watch for threats.

Are hornets dangerous or destructive?

Hornets typically attack in swarms that may number in the hundreds or thousands.  Hornet stings are extremely painful and may be fatal to individuals who are allergic or who have been stung repeatedly.  You should avoid a hornet nest and contact a professional for nest removal.

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