Wasp and bee species

There may be hundreds of species of wasps, hornets and bees found around the world. Only a few of these are seen as real pests here in New Zealand.

Some species, like the Honey Bee, are actually a valuable part of our ecosystem. Understanding their habits, lifecycle and appearance can help to identify the best form of wasp control for your home or business.

See our list below of common species in New Zealand.

Honey bee

(Apis mellifera)

Honey bees are the species kept by Bee Keepers.

If you have a problem with honey bees, contact a local Bee Keeper or Environmental Health Department as they will be able to arrange for the swarm to be relocated.

Key Facts

  • They live in hollow trees or in chimneys, wall cavities or roof spaces.
  • They are similar in size to wasps but are furrier and mostly black in colour.
  • Honey bees convert nectar into honey and beeswax.
  • A honey bee swarm will arrive in flight and cluster on a tree branch.
  • A colony size can often be greater than 30,000 individual honey bees.
  • Population under threat from varroa mite.

Social wasp

(Vespula)

Appearance

  • Worker - 1/2 inch long. 
  • Queen - 3/4 inch long. 
  • Alternating black and yellow bands. 
  • Two sets of wings. 
  • Narrow waist. 
  • Lance-like stinger.
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Lifecycle

  • Annual colonies. 
  • Queen begins to nest in Spring. 
  • Aggressive numbers in late Summer. 
  • Colonies begin to decline by Fall. 
  • Only inseminated Queens nest over Winter.

Habits

  • Feeding – at certain times of the year feed on insects including caterpillars / harmful flies, as colonies increase they are attracted to food consumed by humans. 
  • Sting – sting repeatedly, will sting if provoked with symptoms range from swelling to life-threatening allergic shock. 
  • Visibility – visible during the day as they don't see well at night. 
  • Nesting - in trees / shrubs, or internally in attics, hollow walls/ flooring, sheds, under porches/eaves of buildings.

Native bee

(Leioproctus species)

Appearance

  • Smaller than honeybees (5–12 millimetres long).
  • Hairy back legs which often carry pollen.
  • All are black except for the South Island species Leioproctus fulvescens, which is covered with dense orange–yellow hair.
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Life Cycle

  • Complete metamorphosis.

Habits

  • Each species prefers a specific type of soil. For example, Leioproctus fulvescens needs fine-grained soil, while Leioproctus metallicus nests in coastal sand. This also means that for most of the year the presence of these native bee breeding grounds are not very obvious at all.