Bees and wasps rely on stingers to keep themselves safe. Some also use this weapon to kill hapless victims for their next meal.
Are you dying to find out which bee or wasp has the longest stinger?
We created a handy list that ranks the most notorious stingers in nature. Follow our journey from the modest honey bee through to the jaw-dropping tarantula hawk.
What bees and wasps have the longest stinger?
The Tarantula hawk wasp has an incredibly long stinger, measuring roughly 14mm in length, while the Asian giant hornet is a distant second at 6mm. As a comparison, the honey bee is a mere 1.5mm. Remember, there may be significant variance in length within and amongst species.
Here’s a countdown of 11 insects and how they measure up.
11. Digger wasp – 1.09mm
The Digger Wasp (Oxybelus argentiopilosus) is a slender-bodied insect with a black body and colorful yellow patterns.
This species is known for its burrowing behavior but has a non-threatening stinger measuring roughly 1mm.
10. Honey bee – 1.5mm
The Honey Bee is a remarkable pollinator but sports a less impressive 1.5mm sting.
They’re unique in the world of bees, thanks to a barbed stinger that often gets lodged in its target. This causes the bee to perish as it attempts to pull away.
9. Bumblebee – 2.0mm
The fuzzy bumble bee is another well-known pollinator in the garden, with distinctive black and yellow bands. Its stinger is a modest 2mm, considerably shorter than some heavyweights on this list.
Bumble bees possess a smooth stinger, allowing them to sting multiple times without losing their life in the process.
8. Black flower wasp – 2.1mm
The Black flower wasp (Anthobosca sp.) is one of the less colorful insects you’ll spot in the wild. But they have unique shields on their face, which helps set them apart.
Their stinger measures approximately 2.1mm, which is relatively short.
7. Yellow jackets – 2.6mm
Yellow jackets may not have the biggest stinger at roughly 2.6mm long, but they compensate for that with extreme aggression.
We find it a little unnerving that they bite into human flesh to get a good grip before stinging repeatedly.
6. Apache wasp – 3.81mm
The Apache wasp (Polistes apachus), or Texas paper wasp, is a social wasp native to North America. With a stinger measuring an impressive 3.81mm, this wasp means business.
Apache wasps are considered a pest. Alarmingly, they are known for aggressively stinging humans repeatedly. Their victims report the stings as being extremely painful.
5. Tiphiid wasp – 4.73mm
The Tiphiid wasp (Myzinum maculata) is a black and yellow arthropod found throughout North America. They boast a notably long stinger, measuring around 4.73mm. That’s roughly three times longer than a honey bee’s.
Tiphiids look similar to other seriously aggressive wasps, like the yellow jacket. Thankfully, these solitary wasps keep to themselves and are no threat to humans unless provoked.
4. Blue-winged wasp – 5.06mm
The Blue-winged wasp (Scoliia dubia) is a visual marvel with iridescent blue wings. This parasitic wasp is a terrific pollinator and helpful for hunting pesky beetle grubs.
The sting of a Blue-winged wasp exceeds 5mm, which is a little unsettling. However, it is mostly a docile insect with little interest in humans.
3. European hornet – 5.39mm
The European hornet (Vespa crabro) is the largest eusocial wasp found in Europe. It commands respect with its body mass and a stinger that spans about 5.39mm.
Although European hornets appear intimidating, they are generally less aggressive than some of their wasp relatives. They’ll usually leave people alone if given space.
2. Asian giant hornet – 6.0mm
The Asian Giant Hornet is the world’s largest hornet species with a terrifying, over-sized 6mm stinger.
Often referred to in media as the “murder hornet,” it is native to Asia but has recently graced North America and Europe with its presence.
They are apex predators in the insect world, notorious for their attacks on honey bee hives.
Be sure to also check out our comparison of honey bees and Asian giant hornets.
1. Tarantula hawk – 14.33mm
The Tarantula hawk wasp (Pepsis sp) is a fascinating mix of marvel and terror. This insect is a beast, measuring up to 11cm long and packing a staggering 14.33mm stinger.
It’s among the largest parasitoid wasps, getting its name from hunting huge tarantulas and usually winning the fight.
Their sting is one of the most painful in the insect kingdom, but they are generally non-aggressive towards humans unless provoked.
Answering those questions you were too afraid to ask…
Is there a direct relationship between the size of the stinger and the size of my scream?
Researchers have found a significant positive relationship between overall sting length and pain.
Where are these insects located?
Insects with smaller stingers like the bumblebee, honey bee, and yellow jacket are found in most parts of the world. Asian giant hornets are native to Asia but have recently started showing up in North America and Europe. Tarantula hawks live in South America, Central America, and parts of the southern United States.
Do all bees sting?
While there are many species of stingless bees, the majority of bees in Asia, Europe, and the United States pack venomous stings.
Does stinger length correlate with aggression to humans?
Size can be intimidating, but it doesn’t always translate to aggression. Some long-stingered insects like Tarantula hawks have little interest in attacking people, while yellow jackets are extremely aggressive. For some insects, their large stingers may act more as a deterrent to keep predators away.
If I see a wasp with a long stinger, should I consider changing my address?
Unless it’s asking you to split the rent, probably not. Just give them space, avoid provoking them, and you should coexist peacefully.
- Stinging wasps – (Hymenoptera: Aculeata), which species have the longest sting? click here>
- Biomechanical Evaluation of Wasp and Honeybee Stingers – Click here>
- Wikipedia: Asian Giant Hornet – Click here>