With summer right around the corner, you have probably noticed an increase in the number of stinging insects buzzing around outside. While we typically coexist with these creatures with little to no problems, certain stinging insects can cause a lot of pain if they decide to attack. 

Knowing the most common types of stinging insects and their level of aggression is important to ensure you and your family stay safe this summer. Here are some of the most common stinging insects you may encounter and what to do if you come face to face with one.      

7 Common Stinging Insects

1. Bumblebees

Bumblebees are some of the most common stinging insects, but they typically won’t sting unless they feel threatened. Bumblebees play an important role in our ecosystem, as they pollinate our flowers and plants. 

Bumblebees have a large, round-bodied appearance and are covered in hair. They are typically yellow and black in color, though some species appear more orange or red. 

If you’re dealing with a large number of bumblebees, the best thing to do is leave them alone or call a professional for help. 

2. Carpenter Bees

Carpenter bees are similar to bumblebees in that they are pollinators and are generally harmless to humans. However, they can cause a lot of damage to wooden structures, so you should reach out to an exterminator if you notice a large presence near your home. Carpenter bees look similar to bumblebees but lack the same yellow markings on their abdomens. 

3. Wasps

Wasps are stinging insects that are neither a bee nor an ant and are known to be more aggressive. Wasps look similar to bees but are much more slender and have sparse hair, with two sets of wings and six legs. Common wasps in Pennsylvania can be solid black, solid yellow, or black and yellow striped and have legs that hang down when they fly. 

4. Africanized Honeybee

African honeybees may look cute, but they are actually some of the most aggressive bees in the Americas and are known for their menacing nickname, “killer bees.” African honeybees tend to swarm when attacking and can follow people for more than a quarter mile if they feel threatened. These bees look similar to domestic honeybees but are slightly smaller, with golden yellow coloring and dark brown bands. 

Fortunately for us northerners, most of these honeybees remain down south though they continue to migrate

5. Hornets

Like African honeybees, hornets are another type of stinging insect that can be extremely aggressive. Hornets are larger than wasps and have reddish-brown heads and thoraxes, with a thin waist between the thorax and abdomen. Hornets are known to be mother nature’s pest control, as they protect gardens from pests like caterpillars and spiders. 

Still, hornets can be dangerous to humans and downright annoying. If you spot a hornet’s nest, you should contact a professional for help. 

6. Horse Flies

Horse flies are commonly seen during the summer months and usually hang out near damp areas, including swimming pools. Horse flies are generally harmless to humans but can bite and cause momentary pain, making these insects quite the nuisance during the summer. Horse flies have large gray or black bodies and are noticeably bigger than houseflies. 

7. Gnats

Gnats are some of the most common insects during the summer months and regularly make their way into homes in search of fresh flowers, overflowing garbage, or houseplants. Gnats are very small and thin, and most are weak fliers. 

While gnats can sting humans, they are rarely dangerous and are generally considered an annoying household pest rather than a threat. 

Fortunately, getting rid of gnats is easy and can be done with a few pantry staples. 

stinging insect is never a pleasant experience

Which Stinging Insects Are Dangerous?

While being stung by any stinging insect is never a pleasant experience, some are more dangerous than others. Mosquitos are extremely common during the summer months, and most people won’t even notice that they are being bitten until after the fact, but these pesky insects can carry a multitude of viruses, including Zika, West Nile, and malaria. 

Bee stings can also be dangerous to people with allergies, causing those stung to sometimes go into anaphylactic shock and require immediate medical treatment. 

What’s the Difference Between Wasps and Bees?

Bees are more full-bodied and covered in fuzzy hair, while wasps are thinner and appear to have no body hair. Wasps are also typically more aggressive than bees and will attack anyone or anything they perceive as a threat, while bees tend to keep to themselves and only attack if their colony is disturbed. 

Natural Stinging Insect Deterrents

There are several methods to naturally deter stinging insects, including using essential oils to keep these bugs away. For example, most stinging insects dislike the smell of peppermint, clove, citronella, and lemongrass, so rubbing some essential oil on your wrists and temples can effectively keep these insects away. 

You can also add a few drops of peppermint oil in a spray bottle with some dish soap and spray the solution anywhere you have seen nests around your home to deter any stinging insects from returning. 

Should I Use Insecticides on Stinging Insects?

The use of insecticides is typically very effective in getting rid of stinging insects, so this is always a good option if you want to get rid of the problem quickly. If you prefer to purchase an insecticide spray at the store and do it yourself, be sure that you’re following the directions on the bottle to safely apply the solution and prevent yourself from getting stung. 

However, it is always best to reach out to a trusted pest control company to tackle a stinging insect presence, as trying to treat the problem yourself can be dangerous and end up doing more harm than good. 

When Should You Call an Exterminator

Due to how dangerous certain stinging insects can be, you should contact an exterminator as soon as you see a nest or suspect a possible infestation. An exterminator will perform an inspection and determine what kind of stinging insect you’re dealing with before coming up with a unique and effective treatment plan.  


What is the most common stinging insect?

Bees, yellow jackets, hornets, and wasps are some of the most common stinging insects and can be regularly found in early spring and summer. These insects typically hang out near their hives, as well as sheds, swimming pools, bushes, and shrubbery. 

How do I know what stung me?

If you’ve been stung by a stinging insect but aren’t sure exactly what attacked you, first take a look at your surroundings to see if you can spot the insect buzzing around near you. 

If you don’t see anything, check the part of your body that was stung for a stinger. Honey bees are known to leave stingers behind when they bite, and these stingers typically look like tiny black dots. 

If you can’t find a stinger but notice the sting getting swollen or itchy, wash the area thoroughly, apply ice, and take an over-the-counter pain reliever if needed. 

What is worse, a hornet or a wasp?

While hornet and wasp stings are rarely fatal to humans, except in the case of allergic reactions, hornet stings are known to be more painful than wasp stings. When hornets sting, they release an acid compound called melittin, which activates their victim’s pain receptors and can make the entire experience incredibly painful. 


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