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Honey Bee Hive vs. Wasp Nest: How to Identify the Difference

Are you dealing with honey bees?

We frequently receive calls from people saying they are having trouble with honeybee hives, when what they really have are yellow jacket or hornet nests. Below, we'll outline the difference between honey bees, wasps/hornets, bumble bees, and carpenter bees.

Connecticut Beekeepers Association does not offer removal, extraction, or extermination services.

If you are dealing with a bee removal issue, please call an exterminator in your area.


Examples of honey bee hives

Honey bees prefer to nest in a hollow tree, a hive box, or other man-made structures. They never nest in the ground.

Examples of honey bees inside structures

It is possible for honey bees to start a hive inside a siding of a home or other structure. In that case, extracting might be required.


If you see a ball of bees hanging from a tree branch or a bush or occupying a bench, or any other structure, this is a swarm. Please note that if they’re undisturbed, they are not aggressive!

Examples of honey bee swarms:



There are many kinds of wasps in the U.S., most familiar are yellow jackets and hornets.

Examples of wasp nests

Wasp nests are usually gray and paper-like. They could build their nest in the open (in trees, under picnic tables, etc.) or inside of a structure (garage, shed, attic, etc.). Some yellow jackets nest in the ground. The wasp nest only last for a season. If they are not bothering you, please consider leaving them alone as they are beneficial predators. If they are a danger to you or people around you, you may need to exterminate them. Connecticut Beekeepers Association members do not move or extract wasp nests or do exterminations.



Bumble bees nest underground (abandoned rodent holes, under sheds or in compost heaps). Some will nest above ground, like in thick grass, in bird boxes or in trees. The bumble bee nest only last for a few months. If they are not bothering you, please consider leaving them alone as they are extremely beneficial pollinators. Connecticut Beekeepers Association members do not move bumble bee nests.

Example of bumble bee nests:

Bumble Bee Nest
Bumble Bee Nest


Carpenter Bee
Carpenter Bee


Carpenter bees get their common name from their habit of boring into wood. Carpenter bees do not eat wood but cause damage to structures by drilling circular holes to create tunnels inside wood. Unlike other common bees, such as honeybees and bumblebees that live in colonies, carpenter bees are not social insects and build individual nests into trees outdoors or into the frames, eaves or sides of buildings.