A Bee hovering while collecting pollen from sunflower blossom.

Identifying Black and Yellow Bugs in the Garden

As the warm weather arrives, so do the buzzing sounds and swift movements of black and yellow bugs darting around your yards and gardens. You’ll likely catch a glimpse of these curious creatures if you spend time outdoors. But what exactly are they? Bees, wasps, or something else entirely?

With so many different species, it can take time to identify them. But don’t worry! We’ll dive into the world of flying black and yellow striped bugs and explore their behaviors and unique characteristics. So, grab your magnifying glass and learn more about these insects!

Key Pest Points:

•  Many species of flying insects are black and yellow, including bees, hornets, and other species. Each has unique characteristics that can help identify them.

•  Examine the bugs from a safe distance and pay attention to their behaviors and distinctive characteristics.

•  Some flying insects can sting, so always be careful not to get too close. 

Common Types of Yellow and Black Bugs 

Spending time in your garden can be a relaxing and rewarding experience. But, this tranquility can be quickly disrupted by the appearance of buzzing black and yellow insects. So, let’s explore some of the most common species and see how they can be identified.

Hornet on yellow flowers


Hornets are frighteningly huge social wasps, typically black or brown with yellow markings. These are found in many parts of the world and are well known for their aggressive behavior when their nests are disturbed. Around 20 different types of flying menace exist, including the northern giant hornet, the largest hornet species on earth.

These bugs can grow up to 2 inches long and have six legs. You can quickly tell them apart by the darker-colored abdomens and larger heads compared to other bugs with yellow and black stripes.

Eastern yellowjacket rests on a green leaf during a fall evening


Yellowjackets are social wasps that make their nests with paper mache-like materials. The yellowjacket worker can reach a length of ½ inch. As predators, yellowjackets eat insects like insects and fish, as well as flower nectar and fruit juices.

This black and yellow insect with wings looks similar to a honeybee. However, yellowjackets are different from bees by their lack of hair on the legs and body.

Hoverfly perched on yellow flower in the garden. Example of mimicry

Yellowjacket Hover Flies 

Yellowjacket Hover Flies or Virginia flower flies, closely resemble yellowjacket wasps. But, unlike yellowjacket wasps, these flies do not sting and are harmless to humans.

They are also essential pollinators and help to control populations of aphids as they feed on them. The distinguishing feature of a hoverfly is the large eyes that take up much of the head.

Cicada Killers

Cicada killers are a type of large solitary wasp that is known for eating cicadas. Typically, they are most active during summer, and male cicadas die after mating with the females. Female cicada killers are the ones that hunt cicadas, and they use their stingers to paralyze the cicadas.

These flying yellow and black insects are easily distinguished by their amber wings and bright yellow patterns on multiple abdomen segments.

Sweat Bees 

Sweat bees get their name because they are attracted to perspiration. This black and yellow insect can grow from ¼–¾ inch in length. These bees are quite easy to tell apart from other species since they have a metallic green head and thorax. Their abdomen has black and yellow stripes, and females are predominantly green. 

An Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly in a garden of wildflowers.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtails 

The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail is another common black and yellow flying insect in gardens. Their wingspan is approximately 3.12 to 5.5 inches, and they can easily identify these butterflies by the distinct markings on their wings. They are often seen flying gracefully through the air, sipping nectar from flowers of various plants. 

Males have yellow or yellow-orange bodies with black stripes, and the edges of their wings are black with yellow spots. On the other hand, females come in various colors, from yellow to a nearly uniform bluish-black.

Mexican Bean Beetles 

Mexican bean beetles are a type of insect that can be found in many parts of the United States and Mexico. They are a pest that primarily feeds on the leaves of bean plants, but they can also attack other plants in the legume family, such as soybeans.

The adult beetles of this species can reach a length of 6 to 7 mm, have an oval body shape, and are yellow to orange in color with black dots. This makes these yellow and black bugs extremely easy to identify.

Wisteria flowers and carpenter bee in springtime.

Eastern Carpenter Bees 

Eastern Carpenter Bees are found in the southern and eastern parts of the United States. These bees have a distinct color pattern. Males are orange and black, while females are entirely black. 

Eastern Carpenter bees are often mistaken for bumblebees due to their similar appearance and behavior. However, Eastern Carpenter Bees do not live in colonies and are solitary insects, unlike bumblebees.

Do Black and Yellow Insects Sting?

Flying bugs can be quite unpredictable and fast-moving. This can induce anxiety in people. However, most people are afraid of flying insects because they think they might sting or bite them. Below will show you if these common black and yellow flying insects will sting or bite. 

BugsDo they sting or bite humans?
Sweat BeesYes.
Yellowjacket Hover FliesNo.
Cicada KillersOnly female Cicada Killers sting.
Mexican Bean BeetlesNo.
Eastern Carpenter BeesYes. But only female Eastern Carpenter Bees sting.
Eastern Tiger SwallowtailsNo.

Identifying flying black and yellow bugs, as well as tiny green bugssmall black bugstiny brown bugs, and more in your yard, can be quite a task. But with careful observation and research, you can quickly understand what type of insect you are dealing with.

Remember that not all bugs are harmful; some play a vital role in the ecosystem. So, don’t eliminate these bugs without knowing what they are.


What is the black and yellow bug on my squash plant?

Cucumber beetles are most likely to be the culprit on the zucchini plant. Usually measuring no more than 1/4 inch, these tiny, striped bugs can be a nuisance.

What is a small black and yellow bug that hovers?

Hoverflies, known as syrphid flies, are frequently seen in the garden. Many gardeners mistake most of the 900 native species for bees or wasps because of their similar colors. 

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