Paper wasps are 0.7 to 1.0 inch long wasps that gather fibers from dead wood and plant stems, which they mix with saliva, and use to construct water-resistant nests made of gray or brown papery material. Paper wasps are also sometimes called umbrella wasps, due to the distinctive design of their nests. Unlike yellow jackets and hornets, which can be very aggressive, polistine paper wasps will generally only attack if they themselves or their nest are threatened. Since they are territoriality, it can lead to attacks on people, and because their stings are quite painful and can produce a potentially fatal anaphylactic reaction in some individuals, nests in human-inhabited areas may present an unacceptable hazard. Most wasps are beneficial in their natural habitat, and are critically important in natural biocontrol. Paper wasps feed on nectar and other insects, including caterpillars, flies, and beetle larvae. Because they are a known pollinator and feed on known garden pests, paper wasps are often considered to be beneficial by gardeners.


Yellow jackets are sometimes mistakenly called "bees" (as in "meat bees"), given that they are similar in size and appearance and both sting, but yellow jackets are actually wasps. They may be confused with other wasps, such as hornets and paper wasps. Polistes dominula, a species of paper wasp, is very frequently misidentified as a yellow jacket. A typical yellow jacket worker is about 0.5 in long, with alternating bands on the abdomen; the queen is larger, about 0.75 in long (the different patterns on their abdomens help separate various species). Workers are sometimes confused with honey bees, especially when flying in and out of their nests. Yellow jackets, in contrast to honey bees, are not covered with tan-brown dense hair on their bodies, they do not carry pollen, and do not have the flattened hairy hind legs used to carry it.


Bald-faced hornets are distinguished from other yellow  jackets by their white and black coloring. It has a white or "baldfaced" head, which is the source of its namesake. These wasps also have three white stripes at the end of their bodies. They are notably larger than other species of Dolichovespula, as adults average about 0.75 inches in length. Queen and worker wasps have similar morphologies. However, workers are covered by small hairs while the queen remains hairless. Queens are always larger than workers in their colonies, though size distributions can vary in different nests and workers in one colony might be as large as a queen in different one.


A honey bee (or honeybee), in contrast with the stingless honey bee, is any bee that is a member of the genus Apis, primarily distinguished by the production and storage of honey and the construction of perennial, colonial nests from wax. Honey bees are the only extant members of the tribe Apini, all in the genus Apis. Currently, only seven species of honey bee are recognized, with a total of 44 subspecies, though historically, from six to eleven species have been recognized. Honey bees represent only a small fraction of the roughly 20,000 known species of bees. Some other types of related bees produce and store honey, but only members of the genus Apis are true honey bees.



Bumblebees are social insects which form colonies with a single queen. Colonies are smaller than those of honeybees, growing to as few as 50 individuals in a nest. Female bumblebees can sting repeatedly, but generally ignore humans and other animals. Cuckoo bumblebees do not make nests; their queens aggressively invade the nests of other bumblebee species, kill the resident queens and then lay their own eggs which are cared for by the resident workers.