Stinging insects like bees, wasps and hornets send more than 500,000 people to the emergency room each year. They can disrupt a July picnic or turn window washing into an E.R. trip. Bee and wasp removal is a delicate business best left to a pest control professional.

According to the Schmidt Sting Pain Index, stings can range from mild (A single cactus spine brushed a buffalo wing before it poked your arm) to excruciating (You are chained in the flow of an active volcano).

Despite the danger they pose, these tiny creatures are vitally important for our environment. Bees pollinate 71 of the 100 crop species that provide more than 90 percent of our global food supply. Our planet would not thrive as it does today without bees.

Bees are social creatures that live in colonies ranging from a single queen to thousands of worker bees. Most stinging insects build nests or hives in trees or along eaves but there are ground bees in Michigan too.

Below are the most common Michigan bees, wasps and hornets along with information about each and tips for how to keep bees away from your home or business.

Bees in Michigan – Additional Pest Information

Appearance – Bald-faced hornets are a bluish-black color with white markings on their face (hence the name), upper front of their body and abdomen. They are approximately ¾ of an inch long.

Biology – Bald-faced Hornets are a common type of wasp in Michigan. While bald-faced hornets aren’t actually a hornet, they fit the general description: hornets are essentially and larger sized member of the wasp family. Their nests are an enclosed teardrop-shape. These paper nests can be up to 3 feet long and usually attached to a tree, bush or side of a building.

Prevention – Bald-faced hornets help control many pest insect species like spiders and flies. Adults are very protective of their nesting area and will become extremely aggressive. They can squirt venom from their stinger into the eyes of invaders. Contact a professional for nest removal.

Appearance – Bumble bees help pollinate crops and plants. Their bodies are covered with hairs that aid in pollination. Bumble bees are large and usually about 1 inch long with iconic black and yellow stripes.

Biology- Michigan bumble bees usually build nests in safe places like burrows near or on the ground. They sometimes inhabit abandoned animals tunnels underground.

Prevention – Inspect areas closer to the ground like wood piles and remove small nests early in the spring before they become large colonies. Bumble bees are capable of multiple stings when threatened, so homeowners are advised not to remove bumble bee nests themselves.

Appearance – Carpenter bees look similar to bumble bees but have yellow hair on the upper front of the body, and an abdomen that is blue-black, green or purple metallic and shiny. They average about 1 inch long.

Biology – Carpenter bees in Michigan bore circular holes into wooden structures to create tunnels. They can cause damage to homes and buildings like a termite but more superficial. They are a more solitary genus of bees and don’t form colonies.

Prevention – Carpenter bees like bare wood, so painting and staining wood can help keep them away. Carpenter bees are less prone to sting than other varieties, but their burrowing habits make them difficult to remove.

Appearance – Very common around homes, European paper wasps are black and white with yellow stripes. They’re usually about 1 inch long.

Biology – Paper wasps are named for the papery umbrella-shaped nest they build. They tend to build their open nests hanging from tree branches or beneath the overhangs of homes and buildings.

Prevention – Paper wasps are territorial and will aggressively defend their nests with painful stings. They rebuild quickly and professional removal is recommended.

Appearance – Close relative to hornets, the abdomen of the yellow jacket has black and yellow stripes. Some may have red instead of black. They average ½ to ¾ inches long.

Biology – Yellow jackets are a social variety of wasp that live in colonies. Their nests are often underground in burrows or in hollow logs or holes inside of walls.

Prevention – Because they eat many kinds of insects, yellow jackets are considered helpful. Like other wasps, yellow jackets are capable of multiple stings. When threatened, they release a pheromone that summons other yellow jackets. A professional should be contacted to remove nests near homes, schools and businesses.

Appearance – Honeybees are about ½ inch long. They have hair covered oval-shaped bodies with yellow and black stripes. They are slenderer than bumble bees.

Biology – Honeybees are social insects. They are an extremely important when it comes to pollination. Honeybees pollinate more than 100 crops in the U.S. They usually build their hives in hollow trees or in man-made structures.

Prevention – Don’t try to remove a honeybee nest or take the honey they produce. Honeybees may only sting once, but colonies are so large that only a pest control professional or experienced beekeeper should remove a nest.

Stinging Insect Michigan FAQ

Can I seal up Wasp Holes?

No. Never fill up a hole with stinging insects in it, especially if it is in your home. We hear numerous horror stories of trapped wasps coming through the ceiling or drywall. Call a pest control professional to carefully remove wasps without causing further damage to your home.

What’s the difference between a yellow jacket and a wasp?

Yellow jackets are a common type of wasp. You can identify them by the distinct yellow and black stripes on their abdomens. Learn how to tell yellow jackets apart from other wasps and hornets.

Why do I still see wasps in the fall?

Wasps become more active (and aggressive) in the fall. When the colony begins to shut down, adult wasps seek new food sources. That’s why you often see them hovering over garbage cans, sweet foods and sugary drinks. Wasps need to replace the sweet nectar they are used to with new foods.

Close up of a bee stinger going into human skin.

Why do bee stings hurt?

When a bee or wasp stings you, they inject a venom under your skin. This toxin destroys red blood cells and sends your pain receptors screaming. It attacks the nervous system and creates the burning/itching sensation you experience.

How to prevent bee stings.

The CDC produced a list of bee preventatives for outdoor workers, but the advice applies to anyone.

  1. Don’t look or smell like a flower.

    Stay covered in light-colored, smooth fabrics and avoid bright colors or prints. Don’t wear perfumes or lotions with flowery scents that may attract bees.

  2. Wear shoes.

     Bare feet, especially in a clover patch are at risk.

  3. Stay calm.

    Swatting at a bee can enrage it. Chances are, they will leave you alone.

  4. Dispose of food and drink leftovers.

    Bees are attracted to our food, particularly sugary drinks and treats.

  5. Keep to shaded areas.

    You’re more at risk in the wide open.

  6. Run away if attacked.

    Bees release a pheromone that attracts others when threatened. Avoid the swarm!

How to treat a bee sting.

Unless you are allergic, a bee sting will hurt for a short period but won’t cause major discomfort. According to the Mayo Clinic, to treat a bee sting:

  1. Remove Stinger.

  2. Wash the affected area with soap and water.

  3. Apply a cold compress.

  4. Take an over-the-counter painkiller for relief.

  5. Elevate your arms or legs if they were stung.

  6. Apply hydrocortisone or calamine lotion to ease itching.

  7. Take an antihistamine for swelling.

  8. Avoid scratching the sting.

Controlling Stinging Insects in Michigan

We hope that by understanding the types of bees and wasps of Michigan, you can recognize which stinging pest is bothering you. Don’t attempt to remove dangerous insect populations on your own. Contact Griffin Pest Solutions for safe and professional bee and wasp removal in Kalamazoo, Lansing, Grand Rapids and across Michigan.