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How to Identify Honeybees and Other Flying Insects in Texas

When we get a call for a live honeybee hive removal in North Texas, the first step is to make sure the insects we are going to remove are actually honeybees. Some people see a flying insect and assume it is a honeybee, but in North Texas we have a variety of flying insects often mistaken for honeybees, including carpenter bees, bumblebees, southern yellow jackets, mud daubers, and lots of different types of wasps. Not all flying insects are the same! We’ve put together a handy little blog to help you sort out what kind of flying insect you may have zooming around your backyard.

How to Identify a Bee

First, they are cute! We might be a little biased, but we love honeybees. One key visual identifier for honeybees is that they are hairy. Southern yellow jackets and other wasps have no hair. Their coloring is golden brown with black stripes across their abdomen. If you take a closer at a North Texas honeybee on a plant, you can see yellow on their legs. Honeybees have little “baskets” on their legs to store pollen.

Unless you have Africanized honeybees, most are docile. They do not usually sting unless you smash one by accident or somehow attack the hive. Honeybees love flowers and flora and are not very interested in humans.

Another key identifier of a honey bee is the nest. Honeybees build their comb out of the wax they produce. It can be hard to find a hive though because they are often hidden behind a wall or cavity. We can help identify and confirm if honeybees are the insect you see at your home with some simple questions we ask over the phone.

How to Identify Bumblebees

Per Texas Parks and Wildlife, Texas is home to nine different species of bumblebees. Bumblebees are bigger than regular honeybees and are also hairy. Their body is covered with fuzzy yellow and black striped hair.  They are most often confused with carpenter bees. The main differentiator between bumblebees and carpenter bees is bumblebees have a smaller head and hair on their abdomen. Carpenter bees have a larger head and no hair on their abdomen. If you have a chance to get an up-close look, you will see that bumblebees also have pollen baskets on their back legs. If you see one pollinating, you will hear a buzzing sound. That noise helps them remove pollen from plants.

Unlike honeybees, bumblebees live in the ground and build their nest in abandoned mammal holes and under porches and in wall voids. You won’t find a hive or honeycomb with a bumblebee.

How to Identify a Carpenter Bee

Carpenter bees are the larger than honeybees and bumblebees. The carpenter bee looks a lot like a bumblebee. They have a black body with yellow and black hair on their head and thorax. Their abdomen is bald and shiny, not fuzzy like the bumblebee belly.

If you see a larger bee coming in and out of a hole in wood, for example, a fence post or pergola, that is a carpenter bee. They build their home in unstained and unpainted wood.  They create a hole in wood that appears as though it was created with a power drill, perfectly round. You will find a small pile of sawdust underneath the hole. Unlike bumblebees, carpenter bees are solitary. The female carpenter bee lays her egg in the holes in wood they create. Males cannot sting but may fly at you aggressively. Females can sting but do not unless you stick your finger in their nesting hole or swat them.

How to Identify a Yellow Jacket

European and Southern yellow jackets are our least favorite flying insect at Little Giant Beekeepers. If you get stung and it hurt like heck, it is probably a yellow jacket. Due to the similarity in coloring and size, yellow jackets are often mistaken for the more docile honeybees.

One big differentiator from a honeybee is yellow jackets have a narrow waist and are hairless. They have a shiny yellow and black striped abdomen. Their coloring can make them look like bees, but they are in the wasp family. They do not have pollen baskets on their legs since they do not pollinate.

A main yellow jacket descriptor is their personality. They are aggressive. They sting multiple times with their barb, and it is quite painful.  Plus, they aggressively defend their nest and do not die after stinging you. You will not usually find yellow jackets on a flower or in a garden unless they have a nest nearby. Yellow jackets are considered carnivorous and eat other insects like ants.

Southern yellow jackets build their nest out of a paper fiber; it almost looks like papier mache.

How to Identify a Mud Dauber

Mud Daubers look scary but are harmless! They can sting but they most likely will not. They get their name from the elaborate nest they create out of mud. Usually, they have blackish brown bodies with yellow markings. They have a very small thread-thin waist, linking the thorax and abdomen and have a large head.

One of the easiest identifiers of a mud dauber is their mud nest. The female makes a nest out of mud on the exterior of a structure, like a porch, overhang or eave. They are a solidarity creature. One female creates the nest and lays the eggs. Mud daubers can be great for spider control as they feed their larvae spiders.

These are just some of the flying insects you might encounter in Texas. If you find you are having honeybee issues and need a live honeybee hive removal or another flying insect removed, please call Little Giant Beekeepers at 972-980-0923 for a free estimate. We will ask you some simple questions over the phone to find out what flying insect is buzzing around your house.

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