Stinging Insects Pest Guide: Bees, Wasps, Hornets, Fire Ants

DIY pest control can be especially difficult when you are trying to get rid of stinging insects.

The sting and bite of these insects can put you in the emergency room and can pose a significant health risk to people who are allergic. For example, hornets and yellowjackets are social wasps that are very aggressive and can sting you repeatedly. If you damage their nests you will likely be attacked and stung many times over.

When dealing with aggressive stinging insects like hornets and yellowjackets, I mostly recommend you seek help from a licensed pest professional because they have the skill and experience needed to remove and eliminate pests without being harmed or damaging your property.

However, I do understand there are a growing need and percentage of the population who do not what to hire a professional and want to do it yourself. If this is the case for you, I offer you the following tips, advice, and best practices for dealing with stinging insects.

Types of Stinging Insects

Insect Table

Stinger Nest Locations
Honey Bee tree hollows, small caves
Bumblebee underground, near patios and decks, inside attic soffits
Carpenter Bee softwood, decaying wood, weathered wood
Wasp behind window shutters, under roof eaves, in garden sheds
Hornet tree branches, overhangs of houses and other structures
Fire Ant ground
Yellow Jacket underground in old rodent burrows, wall voids, bushes, low hanging branches, corners or buildings

Source: Saferbrands

The most common stingers and biters you will have to deal with around the house are bees, hornets, wasps, and fire ants. These insects send more than 500,000 people to the emergency room each year. Although stinger insects offer some benefits they can pose a significant threat to people if you disturb them or their nests.


There are few bee species you should be aware of including honey bees, bumblebees, and carpenter bees. The honey bees you’ll see around your home typically live together as colonies in hives or hollowed-out trees. These bees are beneficial to the environment as they pollinate from plant to plant. Honey bees die shortly after stinging a victim.

Bumblebees are bigger than honey bees, known as slow flyers, and most often nest in the ground. They can sting you more than once and look a lot like carpenter bees. Much like the honeybee, bumblebees are key pollinators so it is best to relocate these bees instead of killing them.

Carpenter bees rarely sting if ever and do not pose any immediate health risk to people. However, if left uncontrolled carpenter bees can damage wood structures. Carpenter bees do not live in nest or colonies like other bee species. They bore holes in wood structures to lay eggs.

Fire Ants

As of this writing, fire ants are now considered to be one of the most common and troublesome pests you will have to deal with. Similarly to hornets and wasps, when fire ants sting they inject venom into their victim that causes redness and swelling around the bite site. Fire ants are aggressive stingers with a ferocious bite that is very painful and is said to feel like you are being burned by fire.


Wasps are long slender, hairless, and are not typically aggressive. Wasp will go in attack mode to defend themselves if you disturb their nest. They often build their nest on branches, porch ceilings, above doors, and under eaves.


Hornets look a lot like wasps except they are far more aggressive. So if you disturb their nest or invade the hornets space you should expect a full out assault against you. This is not something you want to see since hornets can sting you multiple times. Hornets most often build their nest in branches, on houses and sheds.

Yellow Jackets

Yellowjackets are highly aggressive insects that live in large colonies. They will defend their colonies at all costs when threatened or disturbed. Yellowjackets attack in swarms and can inflict hundreds of stings on a victim in short order. Their food of choice is found near piles of trash and garbage so keep these areas clean to keep yellow jackets at bay.

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When Are Stinging Insects Most Active?

When are fire ants, bees, wasps, and hornets most active? This is a question we get asked and something that most people want to know.

You won’t see these insects often, if any at all, during winter months as they do not like cold rainy weather. But their activity level increase as the weather becomes more favorable in spring.

Wasps Nest Removal

So you are seeing wasps but know where they are coming from or how to remove them from your home or property? If this is the case do not worry, the video below will show you how it’s done. But first, always wear protective clothing anytime you are treating or trying to get rid of insects that sting.

How to Remove A Wasp Nest With A Spray Insecticide

So key takeaways from the video include:

  • Locating entry holes within the nest
  • Why you should spray the wasps in the evening
  • What you should do during the day to prepare for nighttime activities
  • Which wasps to look out for and which wasps to target

This video offers some of the best advice I have seen and I know what the video teaches work. If you can not afford to pay to have your insects remove or you just want to do it yourself, this video will teach you how to without getting injured.

Cheapest Way To Get Rid of Wasps, Hornets, Fire Ants, and Yellow Jackets

Wasp insecticides sprays can be expensive and are not cheap. Do you want a much cheaper way to kill wasps, hornets, fire ants, and yellow jackets? A solution that I have found that works well to get rid of insects that sting is water mixed with a degreaser dish soap. Yes, soapy water will kill your wasp, yellow jackets, fire ants, and hornets.

The results you get from this solution is amazing. Don’t ask me to prove how it works, I just know it does.  The insects cannot breathe when they are sprayed with the solution. They get sprayed, stop breathing, and die instantly. It works just like that.

Pour water and an equal amount of dish soap into a pump sprayer and get to work.

How To Locate A Wasps Nest

The easiest way to locate where the insects are living is to watch the flight path of returning wasps and hornets as they make their way back to the nest. If this is not an option some common sites where wasps make their nest include behind window shutters, under roof eaves, and in garden sheds. So look at these places first.

Safety Precautions To Take Before Spraying A Hornet, Wasp, or YellowJacket Nest

Like I have said many times before the risk of removing wasp, hornet, and yellow jacket nest is very high. Mistakes are easy to make for the inexperienced person who is trying to remove the mistake themselves. If the removal does go as planned you could end up getting injured and needing to take a trip to the emergency room. This is why we recommend not to fool with these nests yourself and instead hire a professional who is better trained and equipped to do the job.

But if you insist on doing things yourself please review and heed the following safety precautions.

  • Inspect the nest from a safe distance  during the day to identify the nest entrance
  • Always wear eye protection and protective clothing
  • Only spray nest at after dark because the insects are less active when temperatures are cooler
  • Never shine a flashlight directly at the nest as this likely cause the insects to attack
  • Consider the risk and if the job seems to big or difficult call in a professional

Do It Yourself Wasp Nest Removal Tips

For your safety, I have to say it’s best to call a licensed pest control professional if you want to remove a wasps nest.  However, if this is not an option or you just want to remove the wasp nest yourself here are few things for you to consider.

Always Wear Protective Clothing

when attacked, disturbed, or threatened wasps attack together in a swarm, so be sure to have your body covered to protect you from stings. They can sting you multiple times so be sure you have no exposed skin. You should be covered in wasp-proof clothing from head to toe before attempting to remove a wasp nest yourself. Don’t forget your protective gloves and eyewear.

Remove The Wasp Nest At Night

It is best to deal with a wasp colony at night. They are less active, less aggressive, and less likely to attack you as you attempt to remove the nest at night. Do not use a light source if you attempt to remove a wasp nest at night, as the light will excite the wasps and make them attack you.

Stay Away From Ladders

A wasp swarm can be unexpected, startling, and overwhelming. You could lose your balance and fall off the ladder if you are caught off-guard by the swarm. As such, use extreme care if you must use a ladder.

Don’t Try This At Home

Are you allergic to wasps or other insect stings?

If you are allergic to wasp stings you should not try to remove the nests yourself. By doing so you could easily be stung by hundreds of wasp, have a severe allergic reaction and end up in a hospital emergency room at the very least.

Even more, a severe case could land you in a hospital bed. Don’t do it yourself, seek professional help if you are allergic in any way.

Which Stinging Insect Stung Me?

stinging insects

Stinging Allergy Symptoms

What happens when you are stung by an insect or have an allergic reaction? These are some of the questions I will answer next to give you a better understanding of stinging insect allergies.

Normal vs. Allergic Reaction

You should understand the difference between a normal reaction and an allergic reaction. This will all you to remain calm and not panic if you ever get stung.

Redness and swelling are what you are most like to see at the site of an insect bite or sting. This is a normal reaction. 

If you are allergic, the response could be more severe and result in anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is a life-threatening allergic reaction to an insect sting or bites where your immune system overreacts to a point you need immediate medical attention.

Common Allergy Symptoms

Pain, redness, and swelling are symptoms you should expect to see and feel, as part of, a normal reaction to an insect sting. This all takes place near the bite or sting area.

The allergy symptoms are more severe if you have an allergic reaction to an insect sting. As stated before your immune system will overreact to the bite or sting cause sudden changes in your body including the following symptoms:

  • Swelling of the face, throat, or tongue
  • Itchiness and hives over large areas of the body
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Nausea or diarrhea
  • Stomach cramps
  • Dizziness

This severe reaction to an insect sting is called anaphylaxis. You may be familiar with this condition if you have ever been around to anyone who carries Epinephrine or an EpiPen to treat this condition.

How Do You Know If You Are Allergic To An Insect Sting?

It is fairly simple to determine if you are allergic to an insect sting. When you are stung by an insect you will react in one of two ways – (1) normal reaction, (2) allergic reaction.

Normal Reaction To Insect Sting

Pain, redness, and swelling at the sting site are all indicative of a normal reaction. If you experience anything beyond these symptoms it could indicate you are having an allergic reaction. Symptoms of an allergic reaction are more severe than what you would see normally.

Allergic Reaction To Stinging Insects

When your body signals to your immunes system that you are having an allergic response you might experience any of the following: swelling of the face, tongue, or throat; itchiness and hives over large areas of the body; breathing difficulties; diarrhea or nausea; stomach cramps; dizziness

If any of these conditions become more serious you should seek immediate medical attention.

Do I have Hornets, Yellow Jackets, or Wasps?

How do you tell the difference between hornets, yellow jackets, or wasps? This is a common question and concern we address often. It’s not as difficult as you might think. There are some physical differences between the three and the style and location of each insect’s nest is distinct.


The bald-faced hornet is white and black with white markings on their heads. While the European hornet has a yellow head with black eyes, their body is covered in yellow stripes with black spots. Most hornets build an inverted tear-drop shaped ball nest. Their nests are normally attached to tree branches, bushes, overhangs of houses, or other building structures.

Yellow Jackets

Yellow Jackets are hairless and predominantly black with yellow markings. Highly aggressive yellow jackets tend to build their nest in underground burrows, inside attics, in wall voids, under porches, and in bushes.


A wasps appearance varies but most have black with yellow stripes with a slender body. Wasps build their nest under roof eaves and soffits, behind window shutters, or in garden sheds. The shape of the nest is round and resembles a honeycomb pattern.

How To Treat Wasp, Bee, and Fire Ant Stings

You will get stung if you provoke or threatened a wasp, bee, or fire ant. If this happens, the sting from any of these insects will be very painful and you will likely see visible marks at the site of the attack. If you are unlucky and have an allergic reaction you will have to worry about more than just the pain you will be feeling from the sting.

All said it is best to stay out of the way of insects that sting. But sometime it might not be possible to do so and you ending up being stung. So what should you do for treatment if you are stung by a wasp, bee, or fire ant?

  1. Move to a safe location, remain calm, and do not panic as it will make matter worse
  2. Apply an ice pack or alcohol to the sting site to reduce swelling
  3. Wash the sting area with soap and water to reduce chances of infection
  4. Rub antiseptic gel or cream over the affected site to prevent infection

The 3 steps above can help you deal with and provide relief for minor insect stings. If your insect stings are more numerous or you react more severely you could have an allergic reaction. You should seek medical attention if you experience anaphylactic shock or are a known allergy suffers and your condition takes a turn for the worst after a bee, wasp, or fire ant sting.

When Should You Seek Medical Help After A Sting?

You can self administer or a family member can render first aid if you are stung by a bee, hornet, fire ant, or yellow jacket. But sometimes immediate first aid is not appropriate and instead, you should seek emergency medical attention. In most cases, you should get help from a medical professional if any of the following conditions apply to the sting victim.


This list is just a few of the most common conditions that would warrant a visit to the emergency room or hospital to seek medical attention.

When Should You Hire A Professional To Deal With Hornets, Yellow Jackets, Or Wasp?

The easiest and safest way to deal with hornets, yellow jackets, and wasps is always to hire a professional.

Now I know some of you will want to remove them yourself. This is okay if it is only a few insects. What course of action should you take for a large nest or colony? Your best bet would be not to do it yourself. Instead, consider hiring a professional.

You could make your insect problem much worst and even injure yourself in the process.

Another option to consider is if the hornets, wasps, or yellow jackets are located in an unusual or hard to get to spot. Conditions like these would also require a professional who is more knowledgeable and has special equipment.

Therefore, when in doubt you should err on the side of caution. It’s never a good idea to be cheap. Pay someone to help you deal with your insect problems.

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Lynn Edwards

I founded DIY Pest Control Guide with the intention of sharing practical, user-friendly pest control strategies. If you need assistance, reach out to me at - I'm here to help you reclaim your peace of mind.