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How to identify bees, wasps and other insects in Forsyth County

As the weather has gotten warmer, locals have been taking to Facebook to figure out, “What is that stripey yellow thing buzzing around my yard?”

Forsyth County is home to many different types of bees, wasps and flies which, unfortunately, can all look the same if you don’t know what to look for. Beverly Adams with the UGA Extension Forsyth sat down with Forsyth County News to detail just what to watch out for this spring and how to identify each striped critter. 

“Right now, the biggest [population] you’ll find are the carpenter bees,” Adams said. “Usually what’s happening with them is that the females have all been fertilized, so they’re out looking for a place to bore into wood, like in your home, your fence or your deck.”

Carpenter Bee

Carpenter bees can be anywhere from 16-22 millimeters, or 5/8 to 7/8 inches, in size and are characterized by having big, black bodies with yellow and black bands. They have fuzzy hair on the head but no hair on the abdomen. 

Carpenter bees are infamously known for causing damage to houses, fences, decks and telephone poles because they bore into wood. To help control carpenter bee damage, Adams suggests treating wood with oil-based or latex paint. 

Because carpenter bees are pollinators, Adams does not encourage using oil-based insecticides. Instead, residual applications of insecticides such as permethrin and cyfluthrin sprays can be applied to wooden surfaces outside to deter carpenter bees from drilling. 

For an organic solution, Adams suggests using boric acid and placing the powder around the areas where carpenter bees have been drilling or in the holes they make. 


Bumblebees are slightly smaller than carpenter bees, coming it at around 10-19 millimeters, or 3/8 to ¾ inches. They have black bodies covered with dense yellow and black hair. Unlike carpenter bees, bumblebees have fuzzy hairs all over bodies and abdomen. 

The UGA Extension Forsyth likes to compare carpenter bees to a “Mack truck” while bumblebees are more like “Pickup trucks.”

Honey bee

Honey bees are between 12-15 millimeters large, or around half an inch, and have brown or black stripes on their body. They also have golden brown hair on their abdomen. While honey bees are similar in appearance to bumblebees, honey bees are slightly thinner. Honey bees can also only sting one time.

Other types of bees

Smaller bees can include species such as leafcutter bees and sweat bees. Sweat bees are typically metallic and have a greenish shine to them. While they are small and hard to spot, the UGA Extension Forsyth said that sweat bees can be easily seen in bright sun. 

Leafcutter bees have dark striped abdomens where they carry the pollen. Adams said that smaller bees such as sweat bees and leafcutter bees will sometimes have “whiteish lines” on their bodies. 

Adams said that swarms have begun to pop up around Forsyth County, and she encouraged residents to move and rehome the swarms instead of having them terminated. 

“If you find a swarm of bees … you can contact [the UGA Extension Forsyth] or you can contact the Forsyth County Beekeepers Club,” Adams said. “[The club] has people that can come out and remove the swarm for you.”

The Forsyth Beekeepers Club has a map of different numbers to call for swarm removal around the county. Adams encouraged residents who are worried about swarms to give the closest number to your relative location a call.

“I understand when people have swarms on their decks or porches,” Adams said. “I’d want to enjoy my deck or porch, but it’s hard when you’ve got a beehive buzzing around out there. But the best thing to do is call someone to remove [the bees].”

Is it a wasp or a bee?

Wasps will also begin to make appearances as the days get warmer, and Forsyth County is home to a few different species with potter wasps and paper wasps being the most frequent. 

In order to differentiate a wasp from a bee, Adams encourages people to inspect the bug’s waist.

“Wasps usually have really thin waists,” Adams said. “That’s how you can always tell it’s a wasp.”

Wasps are also generally hairless and have long thin legs, oftentimes with spines on them. 

Adams said that yellow jackets can also be mistaken for bees, but like wasps, they have thin waists. She said that yellow jackets typically make nests in the ground and fly low to the ground, so their flight patterns can help distinguish them from wasps and bees. 

While each kind of bee and wasp can sting, Adams said that “bees do not present a stinging hazard and do not defend their nesting territory aggressively.” Wasps and yellow jackets, however, “are more easily provoked,” and Adams recommends “calmly watching” the insects from afar. 

Adams explained that there are many species of flies that “mimic” bees in their coloring and striping.

“The way to differentiate a fly between a bee or a wasp is that flies have two wings instead of four,” Adams said. 

She said flies have large eyes that “take up most of their face” and smaller antennae. Flower flies look especially like bees with their black and yellow stripes, but Adams encourages everyone to double-check the size of the eyes of each bug to help identify them.

Common spiders 

While Adams does not care for spiders, she also identifies different types on Facebook and through the extension during the spring and summer months. Adams said she typically identifies different types of garden spiders, which are small and usually black. She said she gets many calls and questions about identifying brown recluse and wolf spiders. 

Adams said brown recluse spiders, which are venomous, can be identified by their “uniform color” and “fiddle-shape” marking on its back. 

While wolf spiders, which are non-venomous, are also brown in color, they are typically much larger and can grow hair or fur on its body and legs. 

Find more information

Adams encouraged anyone who had questions about bees, wasps, swarms or any other kind of bug to contact the UGA Extension Forsyth.

“Here at the extension office, we get called about all of [these bugs],” Adams said. “Usually to identify them or about honeybee swarms. If you have any questions about what type of bee or bug … in your home or in your yard, if you can collect a sample or take a picture of it safely, then do that and we can identify it for you.”

To contact the UGA Extension Forsyth about identifying bugs or finding help for swarm removal, please email or call 770-887-2418. For more information about the extension office, visit