Bees

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bee identification

Bees are essential pollinators that play a vital role in supporting the growth of trees, flowers, and other plants. These social insects, with over 20,000 different species worldwide, offer a diverse and ecologically crucial presence.

  • Bees live in highly organized colonies with distinct castes (queen, workers, drones) and complex communication systems.
  • As they collect nectar and pollen, bees transfer pollen between flowers, enabling plant reproduction and maintaining diverse ecosystems.
  • When in proximity to residential or commercial areas, their activity and buzzing can be unsettling, and large nests may impede entryways or damage structures.

Bees are commonly encountered outdoors in yards and gardens. By pollinating flowers, they play a crucial role in maintaining healthy ecosystems. Most bees are focused on gathering food and don’t bother with people unless threatened.

Occasionally, bees may find their way into homes or buildings through open doors and windows, attracted by light, warmth, or scents like flowers or sugary items. If they build nests inside structures or become numerous enough to be disruptive, they might be considered pests. Some species, like carpenter bees, can damage wood structures while others, like large bumblebees, might be alarming due to their size and buzzing.

While stings are possible, especially if provoked, most bee species pose minimal health risks to people and pets. However, their stings can be painful and, in some cases, life-threatening to individuals with allergies. Before considering removal, it’s important to identify the species and understand their potential risks.

household pest identification guide

Pest Species in New York City / Tri-State Area:


Honey bees are extremely beneficial pollinators of plants and crops, in addition to being domesticated producers of honey.

They are not typically considered pests, although foraging workers may occasionally wander into a home or building.

Honey bees inflict a sharp, painful sting if threatened. They are the only type of bee with barbed stingers, which means that the stinger breaks off after use and causes the bee to die.

Size: 3/8″ – 5/8″ long (10 – 15 mm)

Color: Brownish-black and golden-yellow

Shape: Slim, fuzzy body with a pointed abdomen, thin antennae, 6 legs, and 2 pairs of wings

  • 6 fuzzy legs that are mostly black with a few yellow hairs
  • Bent (geniculate) antennae
  • Fuzzy, heart-shaped head with 5 eyes
  • 2 pairs of clear, translucent wings
  • Black abdomen with several rings of short yellow hair, creating a distinct black and yellow pattern
  • Females have black faces, while males have yellow faces
  • Workers have a pollen basket on their hind legs – a smooth cavity on the tibia surrounded by hairs for collecting pollen.
  • Workers have a barbed stinger, while drones lack a stinger

Like honey bees, bumble bees are also beneficial insects. They are only considered pests if they nest too close to human-inhabited areas.

These bees build their hives underground, usually under rocks and vegetation or in empty rodent burrows. Occasionally, they might take up residence in shady areas around peoples’ homes and yards.

Bumble bees are normally not aggressive until their nest is disturbed. Unlike honey bees, bumble bees can sting multiple times.

Size: 1/3″ – 2/3″ long (8.5 – 16 mm)

Color: Black and pale yellow

Shape: Stout, fuzzy body with a rectangular abdomen, thin antennae, 6 legs, and 2 pairs of wings

  • 6 fuzzy legs that are mostly black with a few yellow hairs
  • Bent (geniculate) antennae
  • Fuzzy, round head with 5 eyes
  • Thorax mostly yellow with a sparsely-haired black spot in the center
  • 2 pairs of clear, translucent wings
  • Black, rectangular abdomen with a yellow first segment
  • Females have black faces, while males have yellow faces
  • Females have a non-barbed stinger, while males lack a stinger

Carpenter bees are wood-destroying pests that drill perfectly round, 1/2″ diameter holes into wood as they build their nests.

They are solitary bees that do not form hives or colonies. Rather, they prefer to live in small groups with individual nests.

Carpenter bees can cause significant cosmetic and structural damage when they target wooden building structures and outdoor furniture. They are not aggressive and rarely sting (only if handled).

Size: 3/4″ – 1″ long (19 – 23 mm)

Color: Black and pale yellow

Shape: Stout, oval body with a fuzzy thorax, shiny abdomen, thin antennae, 6 legs, and 2 pairs of wings

  • 6 black, fuzzy legs
  • Bent (geniculate) antennae
  • 5 eyes (2 large compound eyes + 3 small simple eyes)
  • Sharp, wedge-shaped mouthparts for boring into wood
  • Fuzzy thorax with pale yellowish hairs and a dark, bold, sparsely-haired black spot in the center
  • 2 pairs of translucent wings with black veins
  • Shiny abdomen that’s mostly black with a slight metallic purple tint
  • Females have a non-barbed stinger, while males lack a stinger