Ever been curious about the buzzing world of stinging insects?
From the industrious honeybee to the formidable Japanese giant hornet, these creatures captivate and sometimes frighten us.
Dive into our comprehensive list and discover the fascinating roles they play in our ecosystem. You’ll never look at a wasp’s nest the same way again!
List of Stinging Insects
1. Honeybee (Apis mellifera)
Honeybees are important pollinators and produce delicious honey. They live in colonies with a queen, worker bees, and drones.
The worker bees collect nectar from flowers, which they store in their honey stomachs. They return to the hive and pass the nectar to other worker bees.
The bees transfer the nectar from bee to bee, adding enzymes to turn it into honey. Once the honey is ready, they store it in honeycomb cells and seal it with beeswax.
Honeybees also make beeswax for building comb and raising their young. They communicate through dances to show other bees where to find food sources.
Honeybees are gentle but can sting if they feel threatened, and their stings have barbs, so they can’t pull them out and die after stinging.
2. Yellowjacket (Vespula spp.)
Yellowjackets are social wasps that build nests in various places like underground burrows, in tree hollows, or even in man-made structures.
They scavenge for food and are known to be attracted to sugary substances, making them common visitors to picnics.
Yellowjackets can sting multiple times and are more aggressive than honeybees, especially when their nest is disturbed.
Their stings can cause pain, swelling, and allergic reactions in some people. To avoid yellowjacket stings, be cautious around their nests, and keep food covered when outdoors.
3. Paper Wasp (Polistes spp.)
Paper wasps are slender wasps that build open-comb nests from chewed wood fibers mixed with saliva.
Their nests usually hang from eaves, branches, or other structures. Paper wasps are generally less aggressive than yellowjackets, but they will defend their nests if threatened.
Their stings can be painful and may cause localized swelling. If you encounter a paper wasp nest, it’s best to leave it undisturbed and consult a professional pest control service if necessary.
4. Bald-faced Hornet (Dolichovespula maculata)
Bald-faced hornets are black and white wasps that build large, football-shaped nests high in trees or on buildings.
Despite their name, they are actually a type of yellowjacket. Bald-faced hornets are territorial and can be aggressive when their nests are disturbed.
Their stings are painful and can cause allergic reactions. If you come across a bald-faced hornet nest, it’s crucial to avoid disturbing it and seek professional help for removal if needed.
5. European Hornet (Vespa crabro)
European hornets are large, reddish-brown wasps with yellow stripes. They construct paper-like nests in tree hollows, attics, or wall cavities.
European hornets are not as aggressive as some other wasp species and are mainly active during dusk and dawn.
However, they can still sting if provoked, and their stings are more painful than those of honeybees.
If you find a European hornet nest near your home, consider contacting a pest control expert for safe removal.
6. Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa spp.)
Carpenter bees are often mistaken for bumblebees due to their similar appearance, but they have a shiny abdomen and can be solitary.
Female carpenter bees excavate tunnels in wood to create nests for their offspring. While they rarely sting, female carpenter bees have the ability to do so if provoked.
Male carpenter bees are more aggressive but don’t have stingers. To prevent carpenter bees from nesting in wooden structures, consider painting or staining the wood and filling existing holes with wood putty.
7. Bumblebee (Bombus spp.)
Bumblebees are robust, fuzzy bees that are excellent pollinators. They live in colonies but have smaller populations than honeybees.
Bumblebees use their strong jaws to collect pollen, which they store in pollen baskets on their hind legs.
They are essential for pollinating many plants, including some crops. Bumblebees can sting, but they are generally not aggressive and will sting only if they feel threatened or their nest is disturbed.
Their stings are painful but not as severe as those of some wasp species.
8. Fire Ant (Solenopsis spp.)
Fire ants are small, reddish-brown ants known for their aggressive behavior and painful stings.
They build mound-shaped nests in soil and are common in warm climates. Fire ants have a venomous sting that can cause a burning sensation and raised, itchy welts on the skin.
Some individuals may experience severe allergic reactions to fire ant stings, which can be life-threatening.
To avoid fire ant stings, be cautious when walking in areas where fire ant nests may be present, and use insect repellent if needed.
9. Bullet Ant (Paraponera clavata)
The bullet ant, native to South America, is known for having one of the most painful insect stings in the world.
Its sting is often compared to being shot by a bullet, hence the name. Bullet ants are large and black with a reddish-orange abdomen.
They are solitary ants and are usually found in rainforests. The sting of a bullet ant can cause intense pain, swelling, and temporary paralysis.
It’s essential to exercise extreme caution and avoid disturbing these ants in their natural habitat.
10. Red Harvester Ant (Pogonomyrmex barbatus)
Red harvester ants are common in arid regions of North America. They are known for their large, dome-shaped nests made of soil and gravel.
Red harvester ants are not typically aggressive towards humans, but they will defend their nests if they feel threatened.
Their stings can be painful and may cause localized swelling. Red harvester ants are primarily scavengers and feed on seeds they collect.
To avoid encounters with these ants, be cautious when walking in areas where they are prevalent and avoid stepping on their nests.
11. Velvet Ant (Mutillidae family)
Velvet ants are actually wingless wasps, and the females are often called “cow killer ants” due to their potent sting.
The name is misleading as these insects are not true ants and do not kill cows. Velvet ants have bright colors, such as red or orange, and are covered in dense velvet-like hairs.
Their sting is exceptionally painful and is best avoided. If you come across a velvet ant, it’s better to observe it from a distance to prevent any potential stings.
12. Africanized Honeybee (Apis mellifera scutellata)
Africanized honeybees, also known as “killer bees,” are a hybrid bee species resulting from the interbreeding of African honeybees with European honeybees.
They are highly defensive of their colonies and will attack perceived threats in large numbers.
Africanized honeybee stings are not more potent than those of regular honeybees, but due to their aggressive nature and tendency to swarm, they can pose a higher risk to humans and animals.
If you encounter a swarm of bees, remain calm and slowly walk away without swatting or making sudden movements.
13. Mud Dauber Wasp (Sphecidae family)
Mud dauber wasps are solitary wasps that build nests from mud. They use their mandibles to collect mud, which they shape into tubular cells to house their offspring.
Mud daubers are not typically aggressive and rarely sting humans, unless directly handled or threatened.
These wasps are beneficial as they help control populations of spiders and insects by paralyzing them and placing them inside the mud cells as food for their larvae.
14. Tarantula Hawk Wasp (Pepsis spp.)
Tarantula hawk wasps are large, solitary wasps that hunt tarantulas. The female wasp paralyzes a tarantula with her sting and drags it into a burrow.
She lays her eggs on the immobilized tarantula, and when the wasp larvae hatch, they consume the still-living spider.
While the sting of a tarantula hawk wasp is excruciatingly painful, it is not usually dangerous to humans unless the person is allergic.
If you encounter a tarantula hawk wasp, it’s best to admire it from a safe distance.
15. Asian Giant Hornet (Vespa mandarinia)
The Asian giant hornet, also known as the “murder hornet,” is the world’s largest hornet species. They are native to Asia but have been found in parts of North America in recent years.
Asian giant hornets are aggressive and can be a threat to honeybee colonies, as a few of them can decimate an entire hive.
Their sting is particularly painful and can be life-threatening to those who are allergic.
If you encounter an Asian giant hornet or suspect their presence, it’s essential to report it to local authorities for proper identification and control measures.
16. Sweat Bee (Halictidae family)
Sweat bees are small, colorful bees that are attracted to human sweat, hence their name.
They are important pollinators and are generally not aggressive, but females may sting if they feel threatened.
Sweat bee stings are usually mild and cause minor pain and swelling. These bees are beneficial in gardens and natural areas, so if you encounter them, there’s no need to worry as long as you avoid swatting or bothering them.
17. Cow Killer Ant (Dasymutilla occidentalis)
The cow killer ant, also known as the “velvet ant,” is a flightless wasp species that is not actually an ant.
Females are wingless and covered in dense hair, resembling velvet, which acts as a warning signal for their potent sting.
Cow killer ants are solitary and are not aggressive, but their sting is extremely painful.
The name “cow killer” may exaggerate the pain caused by the sting, but it’s still best to avoid handling these wasps to prevent stings.
18. Australian Jumper Ant (Myrmecia pilosula)
The Australian jumper ant, commonly known as the “jack jumper ant,” is native to Australia.
They are aggressive ants that are known for their powerful stings. Jack jumper ants are capable of leaping significant distances when threatened, which is how they earned their name.
The ant’s venom can cause allergic reactions in some individuals, so it’s essential to avoid handling these ants and to seek medical attention if stung.
19. Bluebottle Fly (Calliphora spp.)
Bluebottle flies, also known as blow flies, are common insects found worldwide. They are attracted to decaying organic matter and are often seen around trash bins and carcasses.
While they don’t sting, they can be a nuisance due to their presence around unsanitary areas. Bluebottle flies play an essential role in the ecosystem by helping to break down decaying matter.
20. Ground Hornet (Vespula squamosa)
Ground hornets, also known as yellowjackets, are social wasps that build their nests underground.
They are similar in behavior to other yellowjacket species and can be aggressive when their nests are disturbed.
Their stings can cause pain, swelling, and allergic reactions in some individuals. If you encounter ground hornets or their nests, it’s best to exercise caution and avoid provoking them.
21. Sand Wasp (Bembix spp.)
Sand wasps are solitary wasps that dig burrows in sandy soil. They are excellent hunters and primarily prey on flies and other small insects.
Female sand wasps paralyze their prey with a sting and carry them into their burrows as food for their offspring.
Sand wasps are generally not aggressive toward humans and will sting only if they feel threatened or provoked.
It’s fascinating to observe their hunting behavior from a safe distance, but be cautious not to disturb their nests.
22. European Paper Wasp (Polistes dominula)
European paper wasps are social wasps that construct open-comb nests from paper-like material.
They hang their nests under eaves, branches, or other sheltered locations. European paper wasps are generally less aggressive than some other wasp species but will defend their nests if threatened.
Their stings can cause localized pain and swelling. If you encounter a European paper wasp nest near your home, it’s best to avoid getting too close and consider professional help for removal if necessary.
23. Eastern Cicada Killer Wasp (Sphecius speciosus)
The Eastern cicada killer wasp is a large, solitary wasp known for hunting cicadas.
Female cicada killers use their powerful stingers to paralyze cicadas, which they then carry to their underground burrows as food for their offspring.
Despite their imposing size, cicada killers are generally not aggressive toward humans and will only sting if directly handled or provoked.
They play a role in controlling cicada populations, making them beneficial insects in their native habitat.
24. Blue-Winged Wasp (Scolia dubia)
Blue-winged wasps are solitary wasps that are part of the digger wasp family. They are known for their striking metallic blue-black coloration with blue wings.
Blue-winged wasps are parasitic and lay their eggs on beetle larvae found in the soil. Once the wasp larvae hatch, they feed on the paralyzed beetle larvae.
Blue-winged wasps are not aggressive toward humans and rarely sting. Observing these beautiful wasps can be a fascinating experience in nature.
25. Red Wasp (Polistes carolina)
Red wasps, also known as paper wasps, are social wasps that build open-comb nests.
They are reddish-brown with black wings and are commonly found in gardens and urban areas.
Red wasps are not typically aggressive but will defend their nests if threatened. Their stings can be painful, and some individuals may experience allergic reactions.
To avoid stings, be cautious around red wasp nests and give them a wide berth.
26. Ichneumon Wasp (Ichneumonidae family)
Ichneumon wasps are a vast and diverse group of parasitic wasps. They have long ovipositors, which they use to lay eggs inside or on the bodies of other insects, such as caterpillars or spiders.
The ichneumon wasp larvae then consume the host as they develop. While the wasps may look intimidating, they are harmless to humans and do not sting.
They are beneficial in controlling insect populations, making them valuable to ecosystems.
27. Black and Yellow Mud Dauber (Sceliphron caementarium)
The black and yellow mud dauber is a species of solitary wasp that constructs nests from mud.
They create cylindrical mud tubes on walls, rocks, or other surfaces. Mud daubers are not aggressive toward humans and rarely sting, making them relatively harmless.
They are beneficial as they help control populations of spiders and insects by paralyzing them and placing them inside the mud cells as food for their larvae.
28. Honey Wasp (Brachygastra mellifica)
The honey wasp, also known as the “Mexican honey wasp,” is a species of wasp found in the southwestern United States and Mexico.
They are large wasps with striking black and yellow coloration. Honey wasps are not particularly aggressive and rarely sting humans.
They are called “honey wasps” because they are known to raid honeybee hives to steal honey.
Honey wasps have a unique relationship with honeybees, as they mimic their appearance and behavior to avoid being attacked by the bees.
29. Eastern Yellowjacket (Vespula maculifrons)
The eastern yellowjacket is a species of yellowjacket wasp commonly found in North America.
They are social wasps that build nests in the ground or in structures like buildings and walls.
Eastern yellowjackets are aggressive and will defend their nests aggressively. Their stings can be painful and cause allergic reactions in some individuals.
To avoid yellowjacket stings, be cautious when outdoors and avoid areas where they are known to build nests.
30. Giant Resin Bee (Megachile sculpturalis)
The giant resin bee is a species of solitary bee native to Asia but has been introduced to parts of Europe and the United States.
They are large bees with distinctive black and white coloration. Giant resin bees are not aggressive and rarely sting humans.
They use resin from plants to build their nests, which they construct in pre-existing holes in wood or other materials. These bees are important pollinators, particularly for plants that produce resin.
31. European Wool Carder Bee (Anthidium manicatum)
The European wool carder bee is a species of solitary bee native to Europe but can also be found in parts of North America.
They are medium-sized bees with distinct yellow markings on their black bodies. Male European wool carder bees are territorial and aggressively defend patches of flowers to attract females.
While males cannot sting, they may buzz around and appear aggressive towards humans. Female European wool carder bees can sting, but they are generally not aggressive and only sting when provoked.
32. Mason Wasp (Monobia quadridens)
Mason wasps are solitary wasps known for their behavior of building nests using mud. They are typically black with yellow or white markings.
Mason wasps are not aggressive toward humans and rarely sting. They are beneficial as they help control insect populations, particularly caterpillars, by paralyzing them and placing them in their mud nests as food for their offspring.
33. Red Velvet Ant (Dasymutilla occidentalis)
The red velvet ant, also known as the “cow killer ant,” is a species of solitary wasp that is not actually an ant.
Females are wingless and covered in dense red-orange hair, resembling velvet. Despite their name, red velvet ants are not aggressive ants, but their sting is exceptionally painful.
The name “cow killer” may exaggerate the pain caused by the sting, but it’s still best to avoid handling these wasps to prevent stings.
34. European Hornet (Vespa crabro)
The European hornet is a large wasp species native to Europe but can also be found in parts of North America.
They are reddish-brown with yellow stripes and build large paper nests in tree hollows, attics, or wall cavities.
European hornets are less aggressive than some other wasp species but will defend their nests if threatened.
Their stings can be painful, and some individuals may experience allergic reactions. If you find a European hornet nest near your home, consider contacting a pest control expert for safe removal.
35. Pepsis Wasp (Pepsis spp.)
Pepsis wasps, also known as “tarantula hawks,” are large solitary wasps known for hunting tarantulas.
Female Pepsis wasps paralyze tarantulas with their powerful stings, drag them into burrows, and lay eggs on them.
The wasp larvae then feed on the still-living tarantula as they develop. Pepsis wasp stings are excruciatingly painful and are best avoided. If you encounter a Pepsis wasp, it’s better to admire it from a safe distance.
36. Digger Wasp (Scolia spp.)
Digger wasps are solitary wasps known for their burrowing behavior. They excavate tunnels in the ground to create nests for their offspring.
Digger wasps are not aggressive toward humans and rarely sting. These wasps are beneficial as they help control populations of scarab beetle larvae, which can be pests in gardens and lawns.
Observing digger wasps in action can be a fascinating glimpse into their natural behavior.
37. Potter Wasp (Eumenes spp.)
Potter wasps are solitary wasps that construct nests resembling small pots or vases. They use mud to build these nests, which they attach to walls or other surfaces.
Potter wasps are not aggressive and rarely sting humans. They are beneficial as they prey on caterpillars and other insects, which they paralyze and place inside their mud nests as food for their offspring.
38. Red-Tailed Bumblebee (Bombus lapidarius)
The red-tailed bumblebee is a species of bumblebee with a distinctive red abdomen. They are important pollinators for a variety of flowers and crops.
Bumblebees, including the red-tailed bumblebee, can sting, but they are generally not aggressive and will sting only if they feel threatened.
Their stings are painful but not as severe as those of some wasp species. Observing bumblebees as they gather nectar and pollinate flowers can be a delightful experience.
39. Sweat Bee (Halictus spp.)
Sweat bees, also known as halictid bees, are small bees with varying colors, such as metallic green, blue, or black.
They are attracted to human sweat, which provides them with essential nutrients. Sweat bees are generally not aggressive and rarely sting.
These bees are important pollinators, particularly for crops like alfalfa and sunflowers. Enjoy watching these tiny pollinators at work in gardens and natural areas.
40. Metallic Green Sweat Bee (Augochlora spp.)
The metallic green sweat bee is a species of sweat bee with a brilliant metallic green coloration.
They are small bees commonly found in gardens and meadows. Metallic green sweat bees are not aggressive toward humans and rarely sting.
Like other sweat bees, they play a crucial role in pollination, making them valuable to the ecosystem.
41. Great Golden Digger Wasp (Sphex ichneumoneus)
The great golden digger wasp is a solitary wasp species with bright golden coloration on its wings and legs.
They are excellent hunters and primarily prey on crickets, which they paralyze and place in their underground burrows as food for their offspring.
Great golden digger wasps are generally not aggressive toward humans and rarely sting. Observing their hunting behavior can be an educational and captivating experience.
42. Orchard Mason Bee (Osmia lignaria)
The orchard mason bee, also known as the blue orchard bee, is a species of solitary bee native to North America.
They are excellent pollinators for fruit trees, making them valuable to orchard owners. Orchard mason bees do not sting, and they are generally docile and not aggressive.
Observing their efficient pollination behavior can be a rewarding experience in gardens or orchards.
43. Japanese Giant Hornet (Vespa mandarinia japonica)
The Japanese giant hornet is a subspecies of the Asian giant hornet and is native to Japan.
They are among the world’s largest hornets, with queens reaching up to 2 inches in length. Japanese giant hornets are highly aggressive and are known for their powerful stings.
While the sting is not more venomous than other hornets, their large size and tendency to attack in swarms make them extremely dangerous.
Encounters with these hornets should be avoided, and if a nest is spotted, professional help should be sought for removal.
44. Yellow-Faced Bee (Hylaeus spp.)
Yellow-faced bees, also known as masked bees, are small bees with distinct markings on their faces.
They are important pollinators for a variety of flowering plants, especially in tropical regions.
Yellow-faced bees are not aggressive and rarely sting humans. They are gentle and play a vital role in maintaining biodiversity through their pollination activities.
45. Cuckoo Wasp (Chrysididae family)
Cuckoo wasps are a diverse group of parasitic wasps known for their beautiful metallic coloration.
They are called “cuckoo wasps” because they are parasitic, laying their eggs in the nests of other solitary bees and wasps.
Cuckoo wasp larvae consume the host’s provisions intended for the host’s offspring. These wasps are harmless to humans and do not sting.
Despite their parasitic behavior, cuckoo wasps are intriguing creatures to study due to their unique biology.
46. Black-Tailed Digger Wasp (Sphex pensylvanicus)
The black-tailed digger wasp is a species of solitary wasp known for its burrowing behavior.
They are black with orange wings and are commonly found in sandy habitats. Black-tailed digger wasps are not aggressive toward humans and rarely sting.
They are beneficial as they help control populations of grasshoppers and crickets by paralyzing them and placing them in their burrows as food for their offspring.
47. Green Orchid Bee (Euglossini tribe)
Green orchid bees, also known as orchid bees, are a group of colorful bees found in the Americas.
They are important pollinators for many orchid species, playing a crucial role in their reproduction.
Green orchid bees are not aggressive and rarely sting. They are known for their unique behavior of collecting and storing floral fragrances, which they use to attract females during mating rituals.
Observing these bees in their natural habitat can be a remarkable experience.
Note to Readers: If you encounter any of these stinging insects and are unsure about their behavior or potential danger, it’s best to seek advice from local experts or pest control professionals who can provide guidance on safe removal or handling procedures.
Always exercise caution and avoid provoking stinging insects, especially if you are allergic to their stings.
Are there any insects that start with the letter I on your list?
Yes, there are indeed insects that start with i. One such example is the Ichneumon wasp, known for its long ovipositor used to lay eggs. Another is the Indian stick insect, which camouflages itself as a twig. Identifying insects that start with i can be fascinating for entomology enthusiasts.
How to Identify Different Types of Stinging Insects
Looking at Body Shape
Body shape is a primary identifier. Bees tend to be round and plump, which helps them collect pollen.
Wasps, in contrast, are more slender and long, designed for hunting. Hornets, a type of wasp, are larger and more robust, intimidating to many other insects.
Observing the Color Pattern
The color pattern is distinct in stinging insects. Yellow jackets sport vibrant yellow and black stripes. Honeybees shine with a rich golden brown hue. Carpenter bees stand out with their mostly black or dark blue color.
Checking the Wings
Wings can be an informative detail. Bees possess two pairs of wings, which appear almost mesh-like. Wasps feature a single pair of thin wings. While hornets have two pairs, theirs appear more substantial and are more pronounced.
Analyzing the Nest
Nests vary significantly among species. Paper wasps craft umbrella-shaped nests from chewed wood pulp. Mud daubers sculpt their nests from mud, often on the sides of buildings. Bumblebees prefer quiet places, nesting in the ground or in loose material piles.
Behavior gives away a lot about an insect. Honeybees buzz about flowers, focusing on collecting pollen. Wasps might hunt other insects, showcasing their predatory nature. Yellow jackets, if disturbed, might become aggressive, sometimes chasing the perceived threat.
Studying the Location
Location provides clues too. Carpenter bees are wood-lovers, often burrowing into wooden structures. Mason bees opt for holes in bricks or mortar, turning them into cozy homes. Sweat bees have a penchant for human sweat and might land on skin.
Using a Magnifying Glass
Getting up close with a magnifying glass can offer details missed by the naked eye. Bees often have tiny hairs on their bodies, which help collect pollen.
Wasps feature a smoother, more streamlined body. Hornets can be recognized by the large proportion of their head compared to their body.
Taking Safety Precautions
When identifying, safety is paramount. Never touch or provoke these insects. Wear protective clothing if you plan to get close. If unsure, always seek expert advice or assistance.
Consulting a Field Guide
Using a field guide deepens understanding. It provides detailed images for comparison. When in doubt, matching what you observe with the guide’s descriptions can clarify things. And if all else fails, reaching out to experts in the field guide community is a great step.
These 48 stinging insects represent a diverse array of species, each with its unique characteristics and behaviors.
Remember, when encountering any stinging insect, it’s essential to remain calm and avoid provoking them.
Most stinging insects will only sting when they feel threatened or when their nests are disturbed.
By respecting their space and observing them from a safe distance, we can coexist with these valuable creatures while minimizing the risk of stings.