5 Common Yellow Striped Insects - How to Tell Them Apart

If a yellow and black bug is flying near you, your instinct might be to panic so you can avoid getting stung. Some people swat to try and get the creature away, but that can anger and provoke it. Some people try to stay as still as possible until the bug in question has flown away. If you can identify what it is, then you can act accordingly! Maybe you won’t need to panic at all, or maybe you’ll want to migrate to a different spot for peace of mind. Either way, being able to identify these buzzy critters is the first step in knowing what to do if you encounter them.

Honeybee

Honeybee

You can thank these guys next time you drizzle some honey in your tea.

What it wants:
A honeybee is usually just trying to do its job — pollinating plants and slurping up some nectar. It’s probably not very interested in you unless you happen to be wearing a garland of fresh flowers around your neck.

Where it’s found:
Honeybees are originally native to Africa and Europe, but they are now found all over the world.

Panic Level: Low*

While honeybees certainly can sting you, they typically won’t unless provoked (so don’t swat!) or if their hive is threatened. A honeybee can only sting once, and it’s a lose-lose situation — you’ll end up with a painful, raised welt, and the honeybee will die.

*Some people can have severe allergic reactions to honeybee stings. If you are stung and notice any tingling, numbness, swelling, dizziness, nausea, or difficulty breathing, seek medical attention immediately.

Bumblebee

Bumblebee

So round, so fat, and so fuzzy that you might want to pet them.

What it wants: 
Bumblebees, like honeybees, are pretty focused on doing their job. They’re very good at their job, and take a lot of pride in doing it well.

Where it’s found: 
They are primarily found in the Northern Hemisphere, but there are also a handful of tropical species found in South America.

Panic Level: Low*

Bumblebees have a gentle demeanor and won’t sting unless directly harmed. As long as you don’t threaten their nest, you’ll be fine. If you do happen to aggravate them, they can sting repeatedly (unlike honeybees).

*Some people can have severe allergic reactions to bumblebee stings. If you are stung and notice any tingling, numbness, swelling, dizziness, nausea, or difficulty breathing, seek medical attention immediately.

Hoverfly

Hoverfly

If insects had Academy Awards, the hoverfly would win for best costuming every year.

What it wants:
Hoverflies are almost always looking for a snack of nectar or pollen. That’s why they’re called hoverflies — because they’re constantly hovering over flowers snacking away.

Where it’s found:
All over the world (except Antarctica!)

Panic Level: None

They can’t sting or harm you, so you’re in the clear. While they look strikingly similar to wasps and bees that do sting, the hoverfly’s appearance is actually a sneaky disguise. They’re a great example of visual mimicry that wards off predators. At worst, their presence can be annoying. 

Carpenter Bee

Carpenter Bee

So good at nesting in wood, it doesn’t even need a toolbox.

What it wants:
Unlike honeybees or bumblebees, carpenter bees do not live in colonies. Females usually bore holes and tunnel into wood or wooden material to lay eggs. Once developed, the young bees will emerge in search of flowers for food. Carpenter bees then return to their wooden tunnel homes to hibernate in the fall.

Where it’s found: 
Carpenter bees are native to the United States and can be found all across the southern US as well as along the eastern seaboard.

Panic Level: Low

Because they are not part of a colony, they do not have the same defense mentality as other bees. Males cannot sting, and females will only sting if directly provoked or harmed. Carpenter bees are often mistaken for bumblebees, but the key distinction is that bumblebees are fuzzy, while carpenter bees are shiny.

Yellowjacket

Yellowjacket

They basically invented being hangry, and they will make sure you know it.

What it wants:
Your food — yes, yours. During the fall, the colder weather makes the yellowjackets’ common food sources disappear. As they begin to starve, they get angry and aggressive. At first glance, they’re often mistaken for bees because of their similar yellow and black coloring, but yellowjackets are a type of wasp.

Where it’s found:
All over the world, and they are very common in North America.

Panic Level: High

Yellowjackets are very aggressive and will not hesitate to sting you. They can, and usually will, sting repeatedly because they don’t lose their stinger. If a yellowjacket is near you, do not swat at it — this is threatening behavior and will provoke it. Their stings are quite painful and can even be deadly to people who are allergic. Your best bet is to calmly move to another location away from the yellowjacket. 

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