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12 Wasps That Look Like Bees (Pictures)

Although it is easy to mistake wasps for bees due to their similar appearance, these two insects possess unique characteristics that set them apart. While both bees and wasps play important roles in plant pollination, their diets and behaviors are distinct.

Unlike bees, which rely on plant pollen for sustenance, wasps are predators, preying on spiders and other insects. In this article, we will delve into the fascinating world of wasp species that closely resemble their bee counterparts, shedding light on their remarkable mimicry and the reasons behind it.

12 Wasps That Look Like Bees

Bees have wide hairy bodies, but wasps tend to be slim and hairless. Even though these insects aren’t identical, there are still many wasps that look like bees. Since wasps are much more aggressive than bees, learning to tell wasps and bees apart could help keep you safe.

1. Yellow jackets

Yellow Jacket

The Yellow jackets are frequently mistaken for bees and are known for being aggressive. While it’s common for wasps to defend their nests, yellow jackets will attack even when they aren’t provoked. There are some types of yellow jackets with white or red markets, but these wasps are usually yellow and black.

2. European Paper Wasps

European paper wasp
European paper wasp | image by stanze via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Some types of paper wasps have a distinct appearance, but European paper wasps have yellow and black bodies that resemble both bees and yellow jackets.

These wasps aren’t usually aggressive, but they’ll sting repeatedly if they believe that their nest is under threat. As their name implies, these wasps are native to Europe, but they’re commonly found in many parts of the United States.

3. Common Wasps

Common wasp on wood
Common wasp on wood | Image by Rigoberto Díaz from Pixabay

The common wasp is slimmer and less hairy than the honey bee, but thanks to the yellow and black stripes across its body, these two insects look very similar. In some regions, these wasps even compete with honey bees for food.

While a sting from a common wasp is rarely life-threatening, it can be extremely painful

4. European Hornets

European hornet
European hornet | image by Judy Gallagher via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

The European hornets can grow to be more than an inch long. While they have bee-like yellow and black markings on their abdomen, these hornets may also have red markings on their head. In spite of its large size, the European hornet isn’t aggressive and will only attack when threatened.

5. Potter Wasps

Potter wasp
Potter wasp | image by Rushen via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

The potter wasp has a black body with two yellow bands. While it’s common to see swarms of bees and wasps in nests, potter wasps are solitary and make nests in the soil. The potter wasp’s main source of food is caterpillars, which means these wasps can actually be an asset to your garden.

6. German Wasps

German wasp
German wasp | image by Sid Mosdell via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Also known as the German yellow jacket, this yellow and black wasp has dot-like markings on its face. Even though this wasp is native to Europe, Africa, and Asia, it can be found across the globe and is considered to be an invasive species in some regions. Not only are German wasps sometimes confused for bees, but they’re also mistaken for paper wasps!

7. Cicada Killer Wasps

Cicada Killer wasp dragging away a cicada body
A cicada killer wasp dragging away a cicada body | image credit: wildlifeinformer.com

These wasps may have an intimidating name, but they’re harmless to humans. The cicada killer isn’t an aggressive wasp; unlike many other wasps, it doesn’t try to defend its nest.

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While this wasp doesn’t pose a threat to humans, it’s a fearsome predator with a large stinger that it can use to paralyze cicadas and other types of prey. Cicada killers have yellow and brown markings and can grow to be two inches long.

8. Mud Daubers

Mud Dauber

The mud dauber is a very slim wasp with yellow and black markings on its body. Some mud daubers have brown wings, but others have wings that are yellow and orange. Mud daubers live alone and make nests for themselves in mud, which is where they get their name.

9. Asian Giant Hornets

Asian giant hornet
Asian giant hornet | image by t-mizo via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

True to its name, the Asian giant hornet (Vespa mandarinia) is the largest known hornet species, measuring around 1 and 3/4 inches long. These wasps have yellow and black bodies and often have bright yellow wings. While the Asian giant hornet primarily feeds on other insects, it’s also known to steal honey from bee colonies.

10. Scoliid wasps

Scoliid wasp
Scoliid wasp | image by Judy Gallagher via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

These parasitic wasps aren’t as hairy as bees, but they have much more hair than the average wasp. While scoliid wasps can be found in many colors, wasps often have yellow and black markings. They tend to live in the soil, where they feed off beetle larvae.

11. Bald-Faced Hornets

Bald-faced hornet on sunflower
Bald-faced hornet on sunflower

Despite its name, the bald-faced hornet isn’t considered to be a true hornet and is actually a close relative of the yellow jacket. Bald-faced hornets are mostly black, but their bodies have ivory markings that may look yellow from a distance. Like yellow jackets, bald-faced hornets are extremely aggressive and often sting targets repeatedly.

12. Cow Killer Wasps

Cow killer wasp
Cow killer wasp | image by John Flannery via Flickr | CC BY-ND 2.0

Most wasps have shiny, hairless bodies, but female cow killer wasps are fuzzy. Females are also wingless, which causes these wasps to be mistaken for both bees and ants. Some cow killer wasps have black and yellow markings, but others may have orange, red, or white bodies.