Summer season brings bees, hornets, yellowjackets

Herald reader Betty Crum, of Parker Hill Road, brought in a large bee-like insect to The Herald office Tuesday, wanting to get it identified.

Herald staff were, after some investigation, reasonably sure the bug was a European Hornet, an insect that has found its way over to America. According the University of Pennsylvania Extension College of Agricultural Sciences, the insect was first reported in the United States in 1840, and has territory over most of the Northeastern States, as far west as the Dakotas, and as far south as Florida.

With summer right around the corner, it is likely that many Titusville residents might run into several kinds of bees, hornets, and yellowjackets. As such, the following guide has been established to help identify these bugs and offer some safety tips to prevent stings.


The aforementioned European Hornet is the only hornet species that can be found in North America, according to Penn State Extension. They are yellow, with reddish-brown on this thorax and legs, and black lines on their abdomen.

European Hornets will build nests in areas such as hollow trees or spaces between walls, and colonies can contain up to a maximum of 1,000 workers. They are also somewhat unique in that they prefer to forage at night.

Worker hornets are around 25 mm in length, while queens can measure up to 35 mm.

European hornets are described as being aggressive in defending their nests by the article, and homeowners should exercise caution around them. Unlike bees, hornets can sting multiple times.


There are five kinds of yellowjackets that can be found in Pennsylvania: the Eastern Yellowjacket, the German Yellowjacket, the Southern Yellowjacket, the Common Yellowjacket, and the somewhat misnamed Bald-Faced Hornet, according to Penn State.

Hornets and Yellowjackets are both categorized as wasps. However, yellowjackets are much more aggressive, and build larger nests. Late season yellowjackets can contain more than 5,000 of the insects.

Yellowjacket nests can be found under ground or near buildings, though the Bald-Faced Hornet will build nests near fruit orchards, making them a pest for growers. Fortunately for Titusville residents with a green thumb, the Bald-Faced Hornet is less aggressive than the other yellowjacket species, only attacking if their nest is disturbed.

Bald-Faced Hornets are white and black in coloration, and range in size from 13 mm to 20 mm.

Eastern Yellowjackets are yellow and black, with an “anchor-shapped” marking on their first abdominal segment, as stated in a Penn State Department of Entomology article, and are around 13 mm in size. German Yellowjackets look very similar to Eastern ones, being roughly the same size, but have a spade-shaped mark on their abdomen, and a series of black spots. Southern Yellowjackets, meanwhile, have two yellow lines just below their head.

Common yellowjackets have more black on their bodies than other yellowjackets, with no uniquely shaped patterns.

Just like hornets, Yellowjackets are capable of stinging multiple times.

While there is a species known as a Pennsylvania Yellowjacket, they are actually not found anywhere in the Keystone state.


While there is only a handful of Yellowjacket species and a single hornet species in Pennsylvania, there are more than 300 different kinds of bees native to the state, according to Penn State. These include Bumblebees, Leafcutter bees, Honey bees, and more.

Despite their reputation, bees are actually less likely to sting humans than Yellowjackets and Hornets, as stated by Penn State, and are much less aggressive.

The many different bees in Pennsylvania play an important role in helping agriculture by pollinating flowers. In fact, a Penn State article says that bees provide the majority of pollination for certain kinds of summer vegetable crops, and the university encourages preservation of bees.

Due to barbs on their stingers, bees can only sting once, and generally die in the process, making it an attack of last resort. Usually the sting is only employed in defense of the colony.



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