Black and White Bee Identification (Easy Trick To Know Bees vs. Wasps & Hornets)

Georgette Kilgore headshot, wearing 8 Billion Trees shirt with forest in the background.Written by Georgette Kilgore

Animals | March 14, 2024

Woman sees bald faced hornet on a tree branch and wonders if there is a black and white bee identification guide with types of bees chart including bald faced hornet, black and white wasp identification and other information.

Most people know that a yellow and black striped flying insect is a bee, but did you know that there are some very dangerous black and white bee types?

It’s true. And although most bees aren’t aggressive, and simply want to do their job pollinating plants, there are a few species that it’s best to steer clear of, and you’ll recognize them by their distinctive markings.

Nature is pretty cool about providing danger signals to plants and animals. For example, some highly toxic frogs are recognized by their ‘danger’ colors, such as very bright red or blue. And the same is true with black and white bee identification.

Since these black and white bee species exist in various parts of the country, and can often be mistaken for wasps and hornets of the same color, this guide can help you identify the types of bees that are dangerous to have around, and others that are beneficial.

This complete guide outlines black and white bee types, including hornets and wasps, and outlines the characteristic features and habits of each species.

Wasps vs. Hornets vs. Bees: General Differences

It can be challenging to differentiate bees from wasps and hornets since they are all flying creatures, and most sting when you disturb them. They are from the Hymenoptera order of animals known for their fuzzy tendencies.2

Most bees are famous for their hairy yellow and black stripes (a few are black and white) and how they usually sting once before dying. In contrast, wasps are hairless, have thin waists, and look more elongated than bees.

Lastly, hornets are more prominent than wasps, although they are the same species. They are also more dangerous (and lethal), especially the bald-faced wasp that stings several times.

Bees and wasps are not as dangerous but can be fatal for allergy victims.

What Are the Various Types of Bees?

Bees pollinate more than 80% of flowers and are responsible for the growth of more than 70% of the food in the US, making them vital to the ecosystem.

Honeybees are the most notable among the types of bees but are merely a fraction of the thousands worldwide, with more than 20,000 different kinds.

Interestingly, only eight bee species are honey makers, none of which are initially from the US despite the 4,000 native species. The most common bees you will bump into in your flower garden include the Honeybee, Bumblebee, Squash Bee, Mason Bee, Leafcutter Bee, and Furrow Bee.

You will also find the Ashy Mining Bee, Yellow-Faced Bee, Ivy Bee, Carpenter Bee, and Pantaloon Bee. These bees are responsible for pollinating fruit trees and other flowering species like the maple tree, linden, and willow tree, thanks to their affinity for nectar and hairy bodies that collect pollen.

Black and White Bee Identification Chart

Various types of black and white bees are known for their signature white marks. Below is a black-and-white bee identification guide to simplify identifying the most common species.

Ashy Mining Bee (Andrena cineraria)

The Ashy Mining bee is distinguishable by its fuzzy white face and the two stripes of grayish hairs on its chest.6

Closeup of Ashy Mining Bee (Andrena cineraria) with its hairy chest.

(Image: Kamelev, E11)

It obtains its name from how it burrows nests in flower beds and lawns, and you will often find it in coastal regions and gardens.

They are some of the most crucial pollinators, feeding on sweet nectar from fruit trees. Lastly, they prefer living in sunny spots like open woodland and parks.

Closeup of White-Banded Digger Bee (Amegilla quadrifasciata) with its black-and-white-striped body.

(Image: Radovan Zierik12)

White-Banded Digger Bee (Amegilla quadrifasciata)

Unlike other furry black and white bee species, the white banded has several clear white stripes across its body against a black abdomen.

Only the head and thorax have yellowish hairs, while the legs are also black and white.

It is common in various European countries, especially in farmlands and forests, feeding on nectar from different flowering plants like legumes. It prefers living solo, not on colonies like other bees, and from the name, it is known for its tunnel-digging skills.

Additionally, they are ground nesting bees since their females lay their eggs in these caves and keep nectar to feed their hatched young ones.

Bellflower Resin Bee (Megachile campanulae)

This black and white bee is a fuzzy, black insect with a general grayish look and thin bands of white hair.

Side profile of Bellflower Resin Bee (Megachile campanulae) with its grayish color and white hair.

(Image: Ahmed, H., & Garcia, E.13)

This native North American bee has massive oval eyes and a pair of bent antennae and feeds on many flower species in parks and forests.

This black and white bee habitat includes various Eastern North American regions as vast as Ontario, Florida, to Minnesota. Although it feeds on the coneflower, primrose, and Verbena, the bellflowers are their favorite, explaining the origin of its name.

Related Reading: 232 Types of Flowers: How To Identify and Grow Flowers In Any Season

Digger bee harvesting nectar from a purple flower.

(Image: Wainscoat, J.14)

Digger Bees (Anthophorini)

Anthophorini are members of a massive group of solitary digger bees, including black and white varieties.

They are usually larger than other bees measuring an inch long, have yellow or white marks on their faces, and are covered in grayish hairs.

They get the name “digger” from how they drill holes or nets in the ground. You will identify these hiding places by the chimney-like turrets made from mud.

They are heavy plant pollinators of various crops, including sunflowers, squash, and many more.

White-Tailed Bumblebees (Bombus lucorum)

From the name, the White-Tailed Bumblebees have a distinctive white color at the tip of their abdomen,9 but the rest of their bodies are black and yellowish.

Closeup of White-Tailed Bumblebees (Bombus lucorum) on a pine tree leaves.

(Image: van der Weide, T.15)

They are massive, with the queen measuring up to 22 mm long and the workers reaching 18 mm. They are ground-nesting insects and are generally harmless, feeding on several flower types, from bluebells and thistles to the campanula.

You will find them buzzing around in grasslands, farms, and coastal regions.

Is the Black and White Bee Dangerous?

Black and white bees are generally more docile than other species, but they can occasionally sting, especially when they feel threatened.

Fortunately, most of them never sting because they prefer living in isolation in deep wood and grasslands, rarely mingling with people.3

However, the bald faced hornet is not one of these docile bees. Steer clear of it completely and seek professional removers if you notice a nest.

Sometimes Kleptoparasitic bees avoid stinging humans unless you aggravate them or handle them roughly. Another instance of the bees stinging is only when the males have a territorial dispute with each other.

Black and White Wasp Identification Guide

Wasps tend to be more aggressive than bees, and you can tell them apart by their long slim bodies. Below are a few black and white wasps you should know:

Ichneumon Wasp (Coelichneumon navus)

Like a typical wasp, the Ichneumon Wasp features a slim elongated body but has white marks all over, from its antennae to the limbs.

Closeup of Ichneumon Wasp (Coelichneumon navus) with its elongated-body with white spots.

(Image: McQueen, M., Ray, C., & Smith, K.21)

With a V-shaped abdomen, the thin wasp measures up to 25 mm long and has white banded antennae and other white markings on the legs and eyes.

The wasp is famously a natural pesticide thanks to its affinity to armyworms and other insects that infest crops. They eat the caterpillars, and the females lay eggs on them, providing food for the larvae after they hatch.

Top shot of Black and White Digger Wasp (Bicyrtes quadrifasciatus) with its four cream-white or yellowish marks.

(Image: Judy Gallagher16)

Black and White Digger Wasp (Bicyrtes quadrifasciatus)

This digger wasp has a smooth hairless body with four cream-white or yellowish marks on its abdomen, appearing on each side.

It also has grayish wings, three pairs of goldish-brown legs, and a signature-tipped core forming a V at the end.

This wasp can reach 19 mm long and prefers a solitary life in urban areas and places with sandy soil.8 The females build nests on the ground and attack small insects, saving them as food for their larvae, while the large ones feed on nectar from various flowers.

Euodynerus megaera

The Euodynerus megaera takes the signature slender body and V-shaped abdomen that is sharp at the end.10 It has a shiny black body with white stripes across, from the thorax to the gut.

You will also identify it by its black wings, black head, and crooked antennae.

It doesn’t have markings on its black legs, but white marks are all over its body. It also shares the common feature where it has a thin waist segmenting the two lower body parts.

What Is the Black and White Hornet?

Black and white hornet identification is crucial since it is one of the deadliest wasp types from the Dolichovespula genus. It has a black body, an almost white face, and ivory marks on the abdomen.

These markings explain why the hornet is also called the Bald-Faced Wasp and White-Tailed Hornet.

It is a more massive wasp version, with adults sometimes measuring up to 25 mm long, twice the size of its cousin, the Yellowjacket. It also has a distinctive flat head with a cylindrical thorax and ovate abdomen, compound eyes, and white dots on its head.

Bald faced hornet facts sheet outlining facts about the bald faced hornet bees.

The Black and White Wasp is not a true hornet and only gets its name from its massive size, bald-faced head, and hostile hornet-like tendencies.1 These hornets are social wasps living in spherical nests that you will notice on different types of trees looking like wrapped paper.

They also nest on buildings, making them a grave danger to nearby people. They are territorial about their homes and will relentlessly defend themselves from anyone by stinging several times.

They inhabit natural habitats in the US and Canada but mostly in southeastern forests.

What Is the Bald-Faced Hornet?

The Bald-Faced Hornet is also called the Bald-Faced Yellowjacket, White-Tailed Hornet, or Bull Wasp. It is one of the most lethal wasps that defend its territory at all costs.

You will find it in Canada and the United States living in a colony.

Bald-Faced Yellowjacket on flowers.

(Image: Peggy Dyar (4Me2Design)17)

Scientists regard it as a hornet because it is enormous, unlike its relative, the Yellowjacket, and builds its nest above the ground.

They are known to harm intruders by jabbing venom onto faces, particularly the eyes explaining why it is tricky to remove their nests.7

People caught up in the fight suffer allergic reactions and develop Entomophobia or an immense fear of insects. The signs of hornet infestation include an increased number of black wasps that look like bees buzzing around; you will also notice the papery nest hanging on a tree or building.

Bald-Faced Hornet Nest and Diet

The Bald-Faced Hornets live socially in nests like other stinging insects, but interestingly, they never reuse them. You can spot them in forests, parks, gardens, or meadows, especially in summer.

Globe-shaped Bald-Faced Hornet Nest on a tree.

(Image: Matman111518)

They live in globe-like nests that look like they are made of paper; if you spot one, it is best to call experts to remove it. The known diet of the Bald-Faced Hornet includes other insects, spiders and plants.

They are omnivorous insects that hunt arthropods and other bees and eat meats, fruits, and flower nectar.

Their favorite snacks are horse flies, and they are, in turn, prey to bird species and frogs. They are also vital for ecology since they contribute to pollination but are less successful than bees since they don’t have hairy bodies where pollen can stick.4

Reasons To Fear the White-Faced Hornet

Seeing the White-Faced Hornet’s nest means a swarm is nearby, and any contact with them will lead to dire consequences. Only professionals know how to handle them with the right gear and will help you expel them from your home.

The following reasons justify why you should fear them.

They Are Territorial

The hornets are skilled engineers, as you can tell by their well-crafted homes. The large the colony gets, the more their home expands, and they design it off the ground, high up in trees, to avoid predatory attacks.

These homes shelter hundreds of them simultaneously and are usually about two inches thick. Therefore, trying to disrupt their living situation can be dangerous because they will want to protect their carefully designed home from invaders.

They Are Hostile

The hornets are unlike other stingers who only attack when necessary, in case of rough handling or threatening situations. They are sensitive to noise and vibrations and will treat them as threats, retaliating aggressively.

Bald faced hornet facts graphic with additional facts about the bald faced hornet bee.

If you come across their nest, it is crucial to avoid sudden triggering movements, even swinging your arms. You can walk briskly until you are away from the area.

Its Sting Is Excruciating

Victims of a sting from the Bald-Faced Hornet will attest that it is harrowing and can cause allergies.

It means immediate medical attention,5 and the signs include swelling in the mouth or face, dizziness, and an increased heart rate.

Ground Nesting Bees Identification

Many often confuse the various ground-nesting bees for those building hives on trees. They come in different sizes and colors, the most common ones including the Mason Bees, Sweat Bees and Leafcutter Bees.

Top shot of ground-nesting bee in its nest on the ground.

(Image: Cornell CALS19)

Instead of building hives, they create intricate underground homes that you can identify by the soil mounds around the opening tunnel. These holes are usually circular, measuring ¼- ½ inches wide, with enough space for a bee to enter at a time.

These creatures prefer living in isolation and rarely sting, typically appearing in spring when it is time to nest.

What Are the Various Black and White Bee Types?

Several black and white bees buzz around the country, from honey makers to kleptoparasitic species. The color combination is pretty unusual in a world where most of them are black with yellow stripes.

These bees with white marking are unique and sometimes look similar to each other with slight differences. Some have whitish hairs on their bodies, while others have more vivid black and white stripes patterns, particularly on the abdomen.

Others have white patches on the head, antennae, and legs. The most famous black and white bee types include the Ashy Mining Bee, White-Banded Digger Bee, White-Tailed Bumblebee, and Bellflower Resin Bee.

What Does the Black and White Striped Bee Look Like?

The white and black striped bees come in unique forms and look different, making it easy to tell them apart. For instance, the White-Banded Digger Bee only has stripes on the abdomen, while the thorax has yellowish hairs, typical to other bees.

However, like the Ashy Mining and White-Tailed Bumblebees, the other bees don’t have similar distinctive bands. Instead, their hairy bodies take the whitish colors on their thoraxes and abdomen.

Other species also have marks on their antennae, legs, and head.

How Does the Black and White Bumble Bee Look?

The Black and White Bumble Bee is like the common Bumblebee, but the difference is that it has a white hairy layer at the end of its abdomen. It resembles other bumble bees with its yellow and black colors, but its tail end is white.

You will only recognize the difference by looking closely to see that the tail, head, and thorax are different. The hair at the back is paler or creamier than that at the front.

Are Black and White Bees Dangerous?

Compared to other bees, the black and white species are more docile. They still have a sting as their protective feature, but they hardly attack humans unless there are valid reasons, like when they feel their lives depend on it.

They love being isolated from the rest of the world and rarely come across people. However, they retain their painful sting to defend themselves when you aggravate them, and the bite is lethal since it can trigger allergic reactions.

Is the White and Black Hornet Dangerous?

The Black and White Hornet is a wasp species that gets its name from how it behaves like an aggressive hornet. It is one of the most dangerous stingers you should avoid because it is territorial and will bite without you aggravating it.

It jabs venom onto the enemy that comes close, and the sting can be excruciating, landing you in an emergency room. It can lead to allergic reactions in particular victims.

If you notice their round nest hanging near your home, the best thing to do is call a professional remover immediately.

Easiest Black and White Wasp Identification

The difference between the black and white bees and the wasp is that the latter has a long, slim body and is usually larger. Bees are expert pollinators thanks to their hairy bodies and limbs, but the wasp has smooth, shiny backs.

You can tell the black and white types by their unique whitish or cream patterns on various body parts. While others have spots on the head, others have stripes on the abdomen, limbs, and antennae.

The black and white bee species stand out since most have yellow stripes. They come in various color patterns, from shiny white bands to grayish hairy versions.

Some are adept diggers that build their nests in the ground and feed on smaller insects.

Side profile of Mason Wasp with its black-and-white body on a flower.

(Image: Taylor, D., & Smith, L. A.20)

On the other hand, there are black and white wasps, the most lethal being the White-Faced Hornet with a painful, deadly sting. All these insects are flower pollinators, but the bees are skilled at the job, given their hairy bodies that allow the pollen to latch on.

The best part about these bees is that they are solitary species that hardly sting unless provoked, unlike the White-Faced Hornet, which is too aggressive.

Black and white bee identification helps you be on the lookout for them in your garden and know which species to protect, and which ones to remove for safety.


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