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Wasp, Hornet and Bee Species

There may be hundreds of species of wasps, hornets and bees found around the world. Only a few of these are seen as real pests here in the UK, and some of them do not sting. Some species, like the Honey Bee, are actually a valuable part of our ecosystem. If you suspect you have a Honey Bee swarm visit the British Bee Keepers Association find a swarm collector site, to contact a bee keeper local to you.

Understanding the habits, lifecycle and appearance of wasps, hornets and bees can help to identify the best form of wasp control for your home or business. See our list below of common species in the UK.

Common & German Wasp

(Family: Vespidae, e.g. Vespula Vulgaris & Vespula germanica)

These are the two most commonly found wasp species in the UK and the ones responsible for causing painful wasp stings.

Once indoors, they prefer to build nests in sheltered locations with easy access to the outside, such as lofts, garages and wall cavities. Outside they may nest in old rodent burrows, hollow trees and bushes.

European Wasp Vespula Germanica


  • Yellow and black body, marking varies according to species.
  • Workers vary in size from 12 – 17mm.
Life cycle and habits of the Common and German Wasp

Key Facts

  • Only young Queens survive over winter and emerge in the spring to start nest building and lay eggs.
  • Workers (sterile females) emerge during early summer and take over nest building. Queen continues to lay eggs.
  • New queens and males mate in early autumn.
  • Nest dies during winter, including all the males and workers.
  • Wasps do not swarm.
  • Food preferences — will take insects and sweet foods.
  • Females sting readily and repeatedly.
  • A colony may have as many as 25,000 individual wasps.

European Hornet

(Vespa crabro)
European Hornet - Vespa crabro


  • European hornets are large insects – they can be up to 40mm long. 
  • They have a distinctive orange abdomen with brown stripes.
Life cycle and habits of the European Hornet

Key Facts

  • A colony can reach a size of 700 workers.
  • Nest can be found in tree trunks, bushes, sides of buildings, barns, attics, hollow walls.
  • Hornets can bite and sting at the same time.
  • They can mobilize the entire nest to sting in defence which is highly dangerous to humans.
  • Hornets are not attracted to human food. They prefer to feed on insects and sap.

Honey Bee

(Apis Mellifera)

Honey bees are the species kept by Bee Keepers. 
If you have a problem with honey bees, contact a local Bee Keeper or Environmental Health Department as they will be able to arrange for the swarm to be relocated.


Key Facts

  • They live in hollow trees or in chimneys, wall cavities or roof spaces.
  • They are similar in size to wasps but are furrier and mostly black in colour.
  • Honey bees convert nectar into honey and beeswax.
  • A honey bee swarm will arrive in flight and cluster on a tree branch.
  • A colony size can often be greater than 30,000 individual honey bees.
  • Population under threat from varroa mite.

Solitary Bee

(Andrena Fulva)

As their name implies, Solitary bees live alone but nest near each other in villages in suitable nesting sites.


Key Facts

  • They look similar to honey bees.
  • They prefer to feed on honey and pollen.
  • Prefer to tunnel and nest in sandy soil, soft mortar in old houses or use domestic air bricks to nest in.
  • Solitary bees do not swarm and are not aggressive.

Mason Bee

(Osmia sp.)

These bees are known as masonry or mortar bees because they like to nest in crevices or holes in masonry. They prefer to stay near walls that receive sunshine for much of the day. 
Mason bees use naturally occurring holes in bricks or mortar joints (especially mortar with a high lime or sand content).

Osmia sp.

Key Facts

  • Mason bees are harmless; they are not aggressive and will not attack.
  • Masonry bees are most common in southern Britain.
  • They include the wool-carder bee, the mining bee, the hairy-footed flower-bee, the leafcutter bee and the red mason bee.

Bumble Bee

(Bombus sp.)

Bumble bees are often confused with honey bees.


Key Facts

  • They are larger and furrier than honey bees.
  • Dark coloured except for golden stripes across the end of their tails.
  • The tail colour can vary in UK varieties.
  • Bumble bees nest in small wall cavities, holes in the ground, under sheds or in undisturbed compost heaps.