Wasps & Bees of the Greater Seattle / Puget Sound Region

Author: Kurt Treftz, Cascade Pest Control

Wasps and bees are loosely related to ants, only they continually use winged flight as their primary means of motion.


Wasps differ from bees in that they are basically hairless and have narrow waists. There are hundreds of kinds of wasps, many of them too tiny to sting humans, and others that are good pollinators of plants.

But there are a few wasp species – “paper wasps” – that can cause severe stings to people, pets, and livestock and that sometimes even cause death due to severe allergic reactions.

Yellow Jackets & Bald-Faced Hornets*

Yellow Jackets, including “Bald-faced Hornets*,” are some of the most notorious stinging pests, causing a great number of trips to hospitals due to the proteins in their venom.

Yellow Jackets, depending upon the species, are either predators eating spiders and/or other insects, or scavengers-eating carrion (dead animal or fish flesh).

In nature, yellow jacket wasps make up an important part of the balance of nature. However, when their nests are located near, on, or in our homes they can cause significant human harm. Part of the problem stems from the fact that they are so extremely defensive of their territory, attack in numbers, and can sting repeatedly. Some species immediately think they own whatever food they find or land on, even if it is our dinner!

“Picnic” Yellow Jackets are often small, unusually aggressive, black-and-yellow wasps. They are not at all intimidated about landing directly on the food we are preparing, serving, or trying to eat.

Many people get stung while eating outdoors each year. However, the presence of their nests poses an even greater hazard, housing up to 5,000 workers they can inflict an enormous amount of pain and venom.

In one Seattle case, when a small boy and his dog came across a ground nest, the dog was killed and the boy, unconscious, had to be rushed to the hospital. This group of yellow jackets consists of species that nest in the ground; inside hollow logs, stumps & landscape timber; paper nests hanging from trees or under roof eaves, or within house wall voids or within attics. When their nest is unprotected outdoors, they build a paper envelope around it with an entrance near the bottom.

*Bald-faced Hornets are actually not a true “hornet,” but a type of Yellow Jacket that nests only in shrubs and small trees. Since they always build their nest unprotected outdoors they build a paper envelope around it with an entrance near the bottom. They are unusually large, and colored black-and-white, and only eat live insects so they don’t bother us when eating outdoors. These yellow jackets become a problem when they nest in our yards and other locations that conflict with us, often resulting in numerous painful stings and periodic allergic reactions.

Polistes Wasps

Polistes are a kind of solitary paper wasp that makes rather small, “umbrella-shaped” nests that hand from beneath roof eaves, porch stoops, and the underside of roofs within attic spaces. These nests have not paper “envelope” around them for protection, and are only “occupied” by up to 30 wasps when the young are all hatching and preparing to start on their own. While Polestes can pack quite a powerful sting, they are not aggressive. In fact, they almost seem docile. It is when their numbers are too big that they can pose a collective threat to children, adults, and pets.




Bees differ from wasps in that they are hairy and have “thick” bodies. There are many types of bees, some of them solitary loners and many of them very small.

Bees of all types are renowned as the great pollinators of flowering plants. Bees are considered beneficial insects until they happen to nest in homes or other locations that make them difficult to avoid.

Except for such rare cases bees seldom sting people. But when bee nests are close to our activity they will aggressively defend themselves resulting in repeated stinging. The pain of a sting is bad enough, but some people have severely allergic, life-threatening reactions. In such cases bees have to be removed or controlled.

Bumble Bees

Bumble Bees are beneficial insects and only when their nest is located such that it compromises human health due to stings should any control measures be taken. It was long held that Bumble Bees “shouldn’t be able to fly,” and only recently have the secrets of these large “bumblers” begun to be understood. Bumble Bees pollinate a great variety of plants, however, they can at times choose rather unfortunate nest locations. Cascade bee pest control experts can determine whether a treatment is necessary.

Honey Bees

Honey Bees are, of course, famous not only for pollinating crops, but also for their honey which has been a delicacy of humans throughout history.

Honey Bees occasionally swarm in the late spring or early summer. When this happens they split their colony and a mass of bees fly along with a queen to a new nest site. A swarm of bees can be massive, noisy, and downright scary. If found soon after landing, a swarm of honey bees can be caught by a beekeeper, placed in a hive box, and transported to another site-saving nearly all the bees.

However, once honey bees set up a hive within a house wall void, or other similar location, they often have to be treated. Moreover, the remaining honey in bee hives attracts bees from other colonies, flies, beetles and rodents. And if that’s not bad enough, old honey trapped in walls can create serious mildew problems. So the siding has to be removed in order to reach and extract the old honey. Contact Cascade to determine whether a beekeeper, treatment, or hive extraction is necessary.

Mason Bees

Mason Bees are powerful pollinators.  They are small, non-aggressive, and often metallic green in color.  They live A-socially with each female tending a small nest inside a hole or grove in wood within which they seal with mud.  Mason bees typically congregate their individual nests in a favorable spot which, unfortunately, can sometimes be in the siding of a home, perhaps right next to a doorway.  Unless someone is allergic to bees it’s best to leave them alone.

Wasps and Bees in the Seattle / Puget Sound areas can ecologically co-exist with humans. However, when there is an issue that needs professional inspection, evaluation, and treatment, Cascade Pest Control can help you.

Greater Seattle/Puget Sound Region, call 1-888-989-8979

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