Understanding Wasps and Bees in Portland, Oregon

Posted by Matthew Rathbone on January 26, 2023 · 3 mins read

As a homeowner in Portland, Oregon, you’re likely to notice a variety of flying insects around your backyard, including wasps and bees. While they may look similar, each type of insect serves a unique purpose in our ecosystem. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the differences between wasps and bees, as well as the different species you might see in Portland.

DIY Wasp removal recommendations

For non aggressive wasps I've had great luck spraying the nests with this Spectracide wasp remover in the evening. For more aggressive wasps I also use this rediculous looking upper torso Beekeeping suit. It seems silly, but trust me, it's amazing.

The Differences Between Wasps and Bees

When it comes to identifying these two insects, there are some key differences to look out for. Wasps typically have slender bodies with smooth skin that’s either shiny or matte. They also have narrow waists and long, pointed stingers that can be used multiple times. In contrast, bees are usually rounder with fuzzy hair covering their bodies. They have wider waists and shorter, barbed stingers that can only be used once before falling off.

Another way to tell the difference is by looking at their behavior. Wasps are generally more aggressive and territorial than bees, often building nests near human activity. On the other hand, bees are known for their role in pollination, and are less likely to sting unless provoked.

Common Types of Wasps in Portland

Now that you know how to tell wasps and bees apart, let’s focus on the different types of wasps you may see in Portland. Here are three common species to keep an eye out for:

Paper Wasps

Paper wasps are named after the papery nests they construct from wood pulp and saliva. These nests are often found in protected areas such as eaves, door frames, and under decks. Paper wasps are generally not aggressive unless their nest is disturbed, but they can deliver a painful sting if provoked.


Yellowjackets are easily recognizable thanks to their bright yellow and black stripes. They typically build their nests underground or inside wall voids, and are known for their aggressive behavior when threatened. If you spot a yellowjacket nest on your property, it’s best to call a professional exterminator to remove it.

Bald-faced Hornets

Bald-faced hornets are actually a type of yellowjacket, but they have distinct white and black markings instead of yellow. Their large, enclosed nests are often found in trees and shrubs. Like yellowjackets, bald-faced hornets can be aggressive when their nest is disturbed and should be handled by a professional.

The Importance of Bees in Portland

While wasps can be a nuisance, it’s important to remember that bees play a crucial role in our environment. They are responsible for pollinating many of the plants that make up our food supply, including fruits, vegetables, and nuts. Without bees, our ecosystem would suffer significant losses.

So next time you see a bee buzzing around your yard, take a moment to appreciate all the hard work they do. And if you encounter a wasp, remember to give them plenty of space and avoid disturbing their nest.

In conclusion, understanding the differences between wasps and bees and the different types of each species in Portland, Oregon can help homeowners stay safe while still appreciating the important role these insects play in our ecosystem.