stinging insects in their nest

Common types of stinging insects in North Carolina

In North Carolina, you can find a variety of stinging insects in your backyard.  Some of them are social and hang out with hundreds to thousands of other stinging insects in nests designed to accommodate their numbers.  Others are solitary creatures that prefer their own company.  To learn more about the stinging insects that we often encounter in our area, please keep reading. 


Bumble Bees

bumble bee collecting nectar from a flower

Worker bumble bees grow to between ½ and 1 inch in length, the queens grow to be slightly larger- ¾ to 1 inch in length. Bumble bees have an oval shaped body and they have an overall fuzzy appearance that they are very well known for. Their body is black with yellow stripes, although some species might have more orange or reddish stripes. Another difference between the two is that females are equipped with a smooth stinger that allows them to sting their victim multiple times, the male bumble bee does not have a stinger. A sting from a female bumble bee can be painful and cause considerable swelling.  Bumble bee nests look like piles of debris and are often found near the ground in pre-existing holes, such as rodent burrows. 

Bald-Faced Hornets

bald faced hornet on a flower

Despite their name, bald-faced hornets are not true hornets; they are actually more closely related to yellow jackets. They are only referred to as a hornet due to their large size. Baldfaced hornets have a long, thin, wasp-like body; workers grow to between ½ and 5/8th of an inch in length; the queens are even larger in size. Baldfaced hornets are black in color except for an off-white color pattern that is found on the face, at the end of the abdomen, and on the thorax. These stinging insects make paper-like aerial nests.

European Hornets

eurpoean hornet outside lenoir home

The European hornet is the only true species of hornet found living in the United States. Adults have a long body that is brown and yellow in color, their face is paler in color. European hornets are very large in size and grow to between ¾ and 1 ½ inches in length. This species of stinging insect is very aggressive and will attack any perceive threat without hesitation. Their nests are typically located in a cavity, such as a hollow tree, wall void, or in between rocks.

Mud Daubers

mud dauber outside nc home

Adult mud daubers grow to a fairly large size- between 1 ½ and 2 inches in length. In general, they have a narrow waist, with a thread-like segment between their thorax and abdomen that causes them to look like they have been “stretched”. They can range in color from black to metallic blue and may or may not have yellow or green markings. Unlike most stinging insects mud daubers are a solitary species of stinging insect; they were named after the unique nests that they create out of mud and other natural materials.

Paper Wasps

paper wasp outside nc home

Paper wasps have a very wasp-like appearance; they have a pinched waist and long thin legs that can be seen dangling below their body as they fly. Adult paper wasps grow to between ½ and 1 inch in length. Their bodies are black or brown in color and can have yellow markings, oranges markings, or markings that are a combination of both yellow and orange; their wings are grayish in color. Paper wasps received their name from the paper-like material that they create to make their umbrella shaped nests with.

Yellow Jackets

yellow jacket on a deck in north carolina

Yellow jacket adults have a distinctive segmented body with a thin waist; they are hairless and have elongated wings, when at rest yellow jackets fold their wings laterally against their body. Adults typically grow to between 3/8th and 5/8th of an inch in length. The yellow jackets face and head is a combination of black and yellow colors, while their body has a well-defined yellow and black stripped pattern on it. Yellow jackets are a species of social wasp that are responsible for some pollination, but are mostly known as a predatory species.  They prey upon other insects, including caterpillars, grubs, and flies.  Yellow jackets are typically ground-nesters but some build aerial nests on houses and buildings or in bushes and trees with low-hanging limbs. 

Carpenter Bees

carpenter bee flying towards wood pallet

Often mistaken for bumble bees because of their size, carpenter bees are large, black, and yellow bees.  They are often found tunneling in wooden decks, windowsills, overhangs, and other unpainted wood sources including trees.   Another distinguishing feature, carpenter bees have shiny, black tail sections.  

While carpenter bees tunnel in wood to create nests, the damage that occurs is typically from woodpeckers trying to reach the larvae in the holes.  

Are stinging insects dangerous?

Stinging insects should be considered dangerous. Even the most docile stinging insects has the potential to sting.  Stings from bees, wasps and other stinging insects produce a variety of reactions including severe allergic reactions for some individuals. 

In addition to the health risks these pests pose, some species of stinging insects can cause damage to structures and even trees and shrubs.  While stinging insects are beneficial to the environment, care should be taken if they become a problem in or around homes and businesses. 

What should you do if you’re stung?

According to the CDC, the following steps should be taken if you or someone you are with is stung by a bee or other stinging insect.

  • Have someone stay with the victim to be sure that they do not have an allergic reaction.
  • Wash the site with soap and water.
  • Remove the stinger using gauze wiped over the area or by scraping a fingernail over the area.  Never squeeze the stinger or use tweezers.
  • Apply ice to reduce swelling.
  • Do not scratch the sting as this may increase swelling, itching, and risk of infection.

It is always important to keep watch for trouble breathing, severe reddening or swelling of the skin, nausea or vomiting, a tight feeling in the throat, a rapid heartbeat, dizziness, or loss of consciousness. If you notice any signs of anaphylaxis or anaphylactic shock, seek immediate medical attention.

What attracts stinging insects?

Stinging insects are often attracted to properties that offer them their three basic needs- food, water, and shelter. To help keep stinging insects from being attracted to your property you should maintain your yard, keeping it mowed and clear of overgrowth. Many flowers attract bees and wasps, because of this you may want to consider planting flowers in the farthest areas from your home. Outdoor events that include grilling and other sources of food often attract stinging insects to properties. To deter these pests from crashing you should:

  • Keep food that is not being consumed inside
  • Store trash cans away from the main eating area
  • Picking up soda cans and other beverage containers once they’re consumed and using covered cups

What to do if you find stinging insects on your property

A stinging insect on your property isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  However, if you’ve found one attached to your home or in close proximity to people, you may consider have it removed by a professional.  DIY solutions are often ineffective and result in greater risk for individuals.

How do you get rid of stinging insects?

The best way to get rid of stinging insects is to partner with a pest control company that has the experience and equipment needed to safely get rid of a nest.   At A-1 Pest Control, we provide stinging insect control services that take care of bees, wasps, and other stinging pests that have made themselves at home on properties.  For more information about our services, please contact us. 

What are some stinging insect prevention tips?

To help make your property less attractive to stinging insects, we suggest implementing the following prevention measures:

  • Check areas around the exterior of your property, caulking up any entry points that are found.
  • Make sure that all chimneys have tight fitting covers on them.
  • Stain or paint wood surfaces to deter carpenter bees from drilling holes.
  • Don’t leave sugary foods outside
  • Make sure that trash cans have tight fitting lids on them to prevent stinging insects from foraging for food into them.
  • Remove old trees and stumps, and fill in holes that could prove to be ideal nesting sites for stinging insects.
  • Avoid wearing floral prints or perfumes when spending time outside.

Helpful Stinging Insect Articles

What Attracts Stinging Insects To North Carolina Homes

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