Pest Resources

Beehive vs Wasp Nest: What’s the Difference?

Beehive vs Wasp Nest

We all know about our buzzing yellow jacket friends and we all know about our buzzing yellow jacket enemies, too. While one is black with yellow stripes, the other is yellow with black stripes, making them a very different species. These differences carry on into their choice of home, too: the beehive vs the wasp’s nest.

It’s actually very important to tell the difference between the two! With a continued decline in the global bee population and a steady demand for their honey, the United States has regulated bees. They have deemed it vital we all work together to make sure bees are kept safe.

If you have some kind of infestation, you’ll need to know what the pest is exactly to determine if it’s the pest control services you need to call, or a beekeeping nest removals firm.

A Brief Introduction to Bees and Wasps


Both bees and wasps are part of the Hymenoptera family. However, a little-known and interesting fact is that bees evolved from predatory wasps. This occurred approximately 120-million years ago, and has been proven with perfect fossils captured in solidified amber.

It is said a once-carnivorous queen wasp came into contact with pollen. This pollen then became a notable food source with protein that she distributed around the nest. This change allowed for the adaptation of anatomy along with the slow progression through changes in nesting, daily life, size, diet, behavior, and more.

What are the Main Differences Between Bees and Wasps?

There are three main differences (aside from their nesting grounds) between wasps and the bees. Using each of these factors, you should be able to determine whether you have a beehive or wasps nest pest problem.

A. Body

The body of a wasp is notably longer and slimmer than its bumble-cousins. As well as this, the waist of a wasp is prominent, as it is where the body joins together.

B. Color

The color of a wasp is much more bright and yellow-featured, while the colors of a bee can range anywhere from black to brown, and from gold to striped.

C. Behavior

As is to be expected when an insect that dies after stinging, bees are innately against stinging those around them. However, they will sting when stressed or aggravated. Wasps, on the other hand, have more aggressive social tendencies, but will not sting unless disturbed. Needless to say, if you’ve been stung and the insect is dead on the ground, you’ve got a beehive on your hands.

How can you tell the difference between a wasp and a beehive?

Nests and hives are made of different materials and have different purposes. For one, bees live in a beehive and wasps live in a nest. Aside from this, there’s only two types of beehive, and three common types of wasp’s nest. Let’s go through them:


A. The Football Nest

If you find a nest in the shape of a football with smooth and long walls, you’ve most likely had an unlikely encounter with a hornet’s nest.

These nests are made by female wasps using saliva and pulp. They are often found in tree hollows, but are known to stray into chimneys and other darker areas.

B. The Hexagonal Umbrella Nest

This can be identified by its notably large hexagonal cross-section and umbrella-shape. They’ll often be attached under a roof for shelter, and they’ll be made out of paper. This is because they are made by the paper wasp.

These particular wasps chew on wood fibers to create a pulp. This is then used to form the nest.

C. The Ground Nest

If you’re looking around to find a considerable number of wasps but no nest in sight, they may be streamlining into a hole in the ground or building. Try looking for this opening, as it is very important when finding an exterminator for your property.

This nest is home to the yellow jacket wasp. This strain of wasp is smaller than the average US wasp, but is also more aggressive.

D. The Beehive

While different species of bee will use different hive-linings, the honeycomb that grows to form the hive is a wax substance. For example, mason bees will use mud, carpenter bees will use sawdust, and leafcutter bees will use leaves to line their hives.

A worker bee turns the sugar from honey into wax on their abdomen. Then, the bee chews this wax until it is malleable. Finally, they place this wax on the hive to create the iconic honeycomb.

The shape of honeycomb (small hexagonal chambers) is chosen for many uses. For example: it houses larvae and carries large amounts of honey, which is stored to feed the colony throughout winter.

A final element to the beehive would be the location it can be found. It is very rare to find a beehive on the ground, or even bees on the ground. This is because the beehive can’t be prone to moisture from the soil or invasions from pests.

So, you’ll often find a beehive in a tree hollow, in your garage, in a wheelie trash can, or anywhere capable of holing a colony.

E. Solitary Confinement


This is another house for a bee. And, while not a wasp’s nest or a beehive, it is a notable feature when thinking about the differences between the two Hymenopteras.

When drone bees or worker bees have outlived their use, been kicked out of the colony, are too weak to get back to the hive, or have been selected to reduce the colony size, they must find a new home in the ground.

These are called digger bees, as they burrow into the ground to form a new solitary home until death. As well as this, they have no queen to answer to or colony to defend, so will often be less aggressive.

Why Do Wasps have Nests and Not Hives?

Wasps live in nests instead of hives. And, while nests are far less sturdy than hives, it is because wasps only need the nest to last through summer.

A single female wasp starts a new colony every spring. When the workers emerge in the summer months, the nest becomes much more noticeable and is often when they are found by homeowners. Then, as fall causes the male population to decline, the queen will leave in search for a place to hibernate.

On top of this, a wasp is a carnivorous and pest-controlling insect, as they often feed on flies and caterpillars. They don’t have to consider farming and housing honey for nutrition, hence the smaller and weaker nests of wasps to bees.

Conversely, bees build year-round hives to house the colony for a prolonged existence.

And, there you have it, a solved mystery between the beehive and the wasp nest. If you believe you may have a pest problem involving either bees or wasps, please use this guide. You should be able to carefully determine whether it is an exterminator or beekeeping nest removal service you need to call.

Look at its body, consider their behavior, find their home, determine the pest, and react accordingly. It is important you respond to the sign of a beehive or wasp’s nest quickly because their sting can cause some individuals to experience a serious allergic response.

Ronald has 25 years of pest control experience under his belt. He scrutinizes each pest control method, product and process. 

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