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Stinging insects like bees, wasps and hornets are increasingly abundant throughout Quebec, which often raises concerns and questions from homeowners.

With summer in full swing, understanding the differences between these insects is essential so that we can all coexist peacefully. In this article, Montreal exterminators offer a complete guide to the characteristics that distinguish bees, wasps and hornets, with a special focus on species found in Quebec.

Why learn the difference between a bee, a wasp and a hornet

There are several good reasons to learn the difference between a bee, a wasp and a hornet:

  • Behavior and aggressivity: Bees are generally less aggressive than wasps and hornets. They sting mainly when directly threatened or to protect their hive. Wasps and hornets, on the other hand, can be more aggressive and sting even without an obvious reason. By being able to tell the difference between these insects, you can quicky assess whether you are likely to be stung and take any necessary precautions.
  • Reaction to stings: Bee, wasp and hornet stings can trigger strong reactions in people who are allergic. If you know what type of insect has stung you, it will make it easier to get the right type of medical treatment if necessary.
  • Infestation management: If you can tell the difference between a wasp or hornet nest, you will be able to decide whether you can get rid of it yourself or if it’s time to call pest control professionals. Please remember, bees are essential pollinators and play a beneficial for the environment. It’s better to relocate a bee colony than to destroy it.
  • Impact on the ecosystem: Bees play a crucial role in plant pollination and contribute to biodiversity. Wasps and hornets help regulate harmful insect populations. It’s important to understand and respect the roles these insects play in preserving the natural balance of an ecosystem.

The difference between bees and wasps

Bees and wasps belong to the same order of insects which means they are closely related biologically. However, they belong to different families, and show significant differences in their appearance and behavior.

Are bees and wasps related?

Bees and wasps are both part of the order Hymenoptera, which also includes ants, bumblebees and many other insects. The biological similarity between bees and wasps is evident in their similar features: membranous wings, a body that is divided into three distinct parts (head, thorax and abdomen) and a mouth structure adapted for collecting nectar and pollen.

Physical differences between bees and wasps

Despite their kinship, bees and wasps have physical differences, and once you are aware of them, it is easy to tell the two bugs apart.

Bees have bodies covered in fine, soft hair, which makes them look “fuzzy”. Bees also range in color from pale yellow to dark brown, and sometimes boast a metallic sheen.

Wasps, on the other hand, have smooth, shiny, hairless bodies. Their thorax is elongated, which makes them look more slender. Wasps are brightly coloured, with vivid yellow, black and white bodies that are easily recognizable.

Bees and wasps: different habitats

Bees and wasps also prefer different habitats.

Bees build hives, which are complex, organized structures made of beeswax. Hives house entire bee colonies, and it is here that they store their honey and raise their offspring. Bees generally prefer to build their hives in sheltered places, such as hollow trees or man-made structures.

Wasps, on the other hand, build paper nests that are usually gray. To build their homes, wasps chew wood fibers and mix them with their saliva, creating a solid papier-mâché type material. Wasp nests can be found hanging under roofs, tree branches and other sheltered places. Unlike bees, wasps build new nests every year.

Wasp species in Quebec

Quebec is home to a variety of wasp species, each with its own distinctive characteristics. Each wasp species boasts its own unique behavior, physical appearance and role in the ecosystem. Here are some of the most common wasp species in the province.

Common wasp (Vespula vulgaris)

Guêpe commune (Vespula vulgaris)

Also known as the European wasp or German wasp, this species is easily recognized by its yellow and black coloration. Common wasps build hanging paper nests, often in sheltered places like attics, porches or hollow trees. They feed on nectar, fruit and insects, and play an important role in regulating local insect pest populations.

However, in large numbers, these insects can quickly become a nuisance. If you need to get rid of a wasp nest in the ground, call us now!

Polistes wasps

Guêpe poliste

Polistes wasps, or “umbrella wasps”, are recognizable by their slender, elongated appearance, with colors ranging from dark brown to black. Unlike common wasps, polistes build umbrella-shaped nests, often suspended from branches or man-made structures. They are less aggressive than some other wasp species and feed mainly on nectar and insects.

Social wasps (Dolichovespula)

Guêpe sociale (Dolichovespula)

There are numerous species of social wasps, including yellowjackets and yellow paper wasps. Social wasps are characterized by their extremely narrow waist between the thorax and abdomen. Workers have a stinger at the tip of their abdomen.

Social wasps build hanging paper nests, similar to those of common wasps. They are predators that feed on a variety of other insects, including flies, caterpillars and mosquitoes, which helps maintain a natural balance in ecosystems.

If you think you are dealing with a social wasp nest, you can trust our wasp exterminators to solve the problem!

Hornet species in Quebec

Quebec is home to numerous species of hornets. Here’s a quick look at several native species:

European hornet

Frelon européen

European hornets are the main species of hornet native to Quebec and Canada. They are easily identifiable by their size – a big insect that can be up to 3.5 centimeters long, twice the size of most other wasps.

European hornets have yellow-striped bodies and a yellow face. They build their nests using natural materials, such as chewed cellulose, and are often found isolated locations, such as hollow trees.

Asian hornet

Frelon asiatique

The Asian hornet is a species of hornet native to Southeast Asia that has been accidentally introduced to certain regions of the world, including Quebec. This insect is considered an invasive alien species, and its presence is causing concern due to its impact on local ecosystems and honeybee populations.

The Asian hornet is significantly smaller than the European hornet and has distinctive yellow legs. Its body is predominantly black, with a reddish-orange face and a black abdomen with an orange-yellow stripe at its base.

Measures are being taken to prevent its spread in Canada and elsewhere.

It is important to report the presence of Asian hornet nests to hornet exterminators, so that appropriate measures can be taken to eliminate them safely. Take care not to confuse Asian hornets with their much larger, similarly named Asian giant hornets (also referred to as northern giant hornets or Vespa mandarinia). These are much larger and much more dangerous, but few have been spotted in Canada and none within the borders of Quebec. Asian giant hornets have distinctive yellow heads and a wingspan that can reach up to 7 cetimetres.

Enjoy a pest-free summer thanks to Elite Pest Control

If you’re faced with an infestation of wasps, hornets or other insects, it’s important to contact pest management experts quickly. Elite Pest Control has the specialized expertise to accurately identify pest species, implement appropriate management strategies and install safe, effective traps.

Whether you need wasp or hornet infestation management or other pest control services, including pest capture, Elist Pest Control is a company you can trust. Our commitment to quality, efficiency and customer satisfaction makes us an ideal partner for solving your pest problems.

Contact us today for a free, professional assessment! Your peace of mind and the safety of your living space are our top priorities.

Pascal Rock
Pascal Rock  
Director, Elite Pest Control
Founder and mainstay of Elite Pest Control, Pascal Rock has embodied expertise and dedication for over a decade. His training, acquired with expert mentors in extermination and pest decontamination, has shaped an outstanding professional. Under his leadership, a team of six seasoned technicians deploys the very best pest control strategies. Together, they ensure the peace of mind and safety of residents and professionals from Montreal to Quebec City, by offering fast, effective interventions, available at all times.