Bees fly between 12 and 20 miles per hour, yellow jackets (a type of wasp) between 6 and 30 miles per hour, and hornets up to 25 miles per hour.
|Insect||Average Flight Speed||Fastest Flight Speed|
|Black Cutworm moth||–||Over 30mph|
To clarify, yellow jackets are members of the wasp family, but a wasp is not always synonymous with a yellow jacket. It’s also worth noting that hornets are technically wasps, and yellow jackets are ground-nesting hornets.
To simplify, yellow jackets are ground-nesting wasps, whereas hornets are larger wasps.
Continue reading to learn how these winged insects fly and how they gain speed during flight.
ALSO SEE: How to Get Rid of Wasp Nest in Roof
How do Wasps Fly?
Wasps, like other insects of their kind, have a robust set of wings. While their wings are difficult to see when the wasp is in flight, try to catch a glimpse of them after they have landed on a plant or object in your yard.
Their wings are folded down over their backs and attached to their bodies. Depending on the species, they may even have multiple sets of wings. When they fly, their wings beat rapidly (up to 400 times per second), and they generate enough wind to lift their bodies.
Wasps are excellent flyers, which enables them to keep up with strong winds, fans, and other obstacles. They may even attempt to sting you multiple times, so it’s best to avoid them entirely.
Although the fastest wasp on the planet is slightly slower than some hornets and other insects, you can expect them to fly in a strong, straight line toward you if they feel the need to.
Why Do Wasps Chase You?
If a wasp perceives you as a threat, it will pursue you and attempt to sting you. Wasps are extremely persistent, and they will not leave you alone until they determine that you are sufficiently removed from their nest and colony.
If you return to the area where the wasps first appeared, they will only become more aggressive. Make every effort to get out of the situation as quickly as possible. Once you’ve left, avoid returning to that area for a short period of time.
After your initial encounter with them, the wasp’s senses are heightened. If you must return through that area, wear clothing that protects your skin from wasps landing on you or stinging you.
How Far Will a Wasp Chase You?
Are you on your way home and wondering how long that wasp will follow you? Wasps are unlikely to travel more than 50 to 100 feet from their initial contact point.
If you’re going to spray a wasp nest or are going to be in its vicinity, make sure you know where to seek refuge. Create a space that is as close to the original as possible.
How do Bees Fly?
Bees are enthralling insects. They should not be able to fly with such small wings, given their size and weight, but they do.
Bees, it turns out, have two sets of wings. A larger outer set and a smaller inner set connected by small comb-like teeth create a larger surface area that aids bees in creating lift and flying.
A special muscle contracts the thorax of a bee, causing the wings to beat rapidly, which results in the buzzing sound made by bees.
The muscles contract alternately in a rhythmic pattern, similar to how your lungs expand and contract, which enables the bees to beat their wings back and forth.
Initially, biologists believed that a bee’s wings were extremely rigid, comparable to those of an airplane.
However, the same biologists argued that even if this is true, the size of the bees’ wings prevents them from producing enough lift to fly.
For 80 years, the subject remained a mystery, but with the advancement of technology, high definition video capture provided the experts with the edge they needed to crack this one.
Permit me to quote an opening line from one of the numerous children’s films I’ve watched with my child. This film is titled “Bee Movie,” and the tagline reads as follows:
“By all known aviation laws, a bee should not be able to fly. Its wings are insufficiently large to lift its chubby little body off the ground. Naturally, the bee flies. Because bees are unconcerned with what humans believe is impossible.”
I included this because my research revealed that this line was taken from an answer given by Jack Fraser (who earned a master’s degree in physics from the University of Oxford in 2018) to the question “How does a bee fly?” “Are we capable of flying like bees?” He continued by stating that this is a myth and that humans do understand and comprehend how they are able to fly.
The Fastest Bee Species
Due to the numerous bee attack incidents, experts are studying bee behavior in order to gain knowledge about how to prevent them. However, to get a sense of how fast bees fly, let’s look at three of the most common bees, including the infamous killer bee.
How Fast do Honey Bees fly?
The honey bee is one of the bee species that produce the majority of the world’s honey. They operate 24 hours a day, even during the winter months.
According to Douglas Altshuler, a researcher at the California Institute of Technology, they can beat their wing up to 230 times per second.
Typically, worker honey bees can fly at a maximum of 15 miles per hour. This speed is primarily measured on workers en route to a food source.
On the return, their speed drops to 12 miles per hour due to the additional pollen, nectar, or water they are carrying.
However, the fastest recorded speed of a honey bee is 20 miles per hour, which occurs when bees attack hive predators.
How Fast do Bumblebees Fly?
Bumblebees are a type of bee that produces no honey. They are extremely common in agriculture due to their superior ability to pollinate plants and crops.
Indeed, experts have classified this species as a critical agricultural pollinator. That is why the industry expressed concern about their population decline.
Bumblebees can beat their wings up to 200 times per second. They generally seek nectar from sources located between one and two yards from their hive and return to the same location until the food source is depleted.
On a typical day, a bumblebee flies at a rate of 6.75 miles per hour, depending on their activity.
However, bumblebees’ fastest recorded flight speed is 33 miles per hour. That is quite rapid in comparison to their size and shape.
How Fast do Africanized Honey Bees fly?
Let us now discuss the most infamous species of bees, the infamous Africanized honey bee, also known as killer bees.
They earned this moniker as a result of their aggressive nature. In comparison to other bee species, they are extremely protective of their hives.
Any minuscule provocation, such as loud noises or vibrations. Killer bees have been implicated in the deaths of approximately 1,000 or more humans, as well as attacking and killing other animals.
All victims received a sting that was more than tenfold that of honey bees.
Experts have studied Africanized Honey Bees and discovered that they will chase a human for literally as long as necessary.
While normal honeybees will chase for approximately 100 yards, it is interesting to note that Africanized honey bees fly at the same speed as regular honey bees – between 12 and 20 miles per hour.
What makes them lethal is that when provoked (which they frequently are), they attack with a larger swarm than regular honey bees and chase their prey farther than other bee species.
How fast do Asia Giant Hornet Fly?
The Asian giant hornet (Vespa mandarinia) is a species found throughout Eastern Asia’s tropical and temperate regions, including Sri Lanka, Japan, India, and China. However, they have been discovered sporadically in North America in recent years in locations such as Washington State, Vancouver Island, and British Columbia.
The Giant Asian Hornet is sometimes referred to as the Murder Hornet.
It has an orange-black striped body and measures 1.5 to 2 inches in length. The queen can reach a length of more than two inches. A typical Asian Giant hornet wasp has a wingspan of about 3 inches and a stinger that is at least 14 of an inch long.
Its 3-inch wingspan enables it to fly faster than other wasps, which explains how it reaches a top speed of 25 miles per hour.
Asian giant hornets nest in tree hollows, and their roots and nests are never more than six feet above the ground. That is why people accidentally step on their nests and are stung before they realize what is happening.
How Fast do Paper Wasps Fly?
Paper wasps range in size from 0.75 to 1.25 inches and are reddish-brown or black with yellow bands on their wings. Their wingspan ranges from 0.59 to 0.98 inches. Additionally, this wasp species flies at an average of 7 miles per hour, and you may be able to outrun them.
Paper wasps are a common type of wasp found in gardens and around houses.
While paper wasps, like yellowjackets, are eusocial, they prefer to attack alone. As a result, you may not be swarmed by several of these wasps in the same way that bees or yellowjackets would.
The average number of beats per second made by the wasp’s wings varies by species. However, the wings of a wasp typically beat between 117 and 247 times per second.
How do Yellow Jackets Fly?
Yellow jackets, or yellow jackets as some refer to them, are one of numerous insect species considered pests.
This is primarily because they nest in areas where humans congregate, such as under house eaves, above your door, in your attic, beneath a flower pot, or underground near a picnic site. Another reason is that these flying insects are capable of stinging you repeatedly.
By and large, yellow jackets are not aggressive. Even if they are not aggressive, they will use their sting to defend their nest. Female yellow jackets are equipped with multiple stingers.
Once identified as a threat, the best course of action is to flee.
According to experts, this insect can reach speeds of up to 6 to 7 miles per hour, a speed that a human easily outruns.
After conducting some research (more accurately, a great deal of research), we discovered that yellow jackets move their wings in the same way that bees do.
They, like bees, have two sets of wings, a larger forewing and a smaller hindwing attached to their thorax. Yellow jackets, on the other hand, rest their wings lengthwise when they land, whereas bees fan their wings out slightly while feeding.
How do Honets Fly?
Hornets, like bees and yellow jackets, are insects in the Hymenoptera order. This means that the insects in this order have two pairs of wings.
One set of larger and longer outer wings and another set of shorter and smaller inner wings. However, hornets, like their close cousin the yellow jacket, are omnivorous.
Late autumn is a particularly aggressive time of year for hornets. This is the time when the colony develops its new queen, which is why the colony becomes more protective.
They can fly at speeds of up to 13 to 14 miles per hour and beat their wings at a rate of approximately 100 beats per second.
The Asian giant hornet has the fastest flight speed of all hornets, reaching speeds of up to 25 miles per hour.
Houseflies vs Wasps
A common housefly is quite slow. They fly at a top speed of 5 miles per hour. However, due to their incredible acrobatic ability, they appear to be faster. Their wings beat 200 times faster than those of some wasps, but this does not translate into speed.
While house flies only fly at a speed of 5 miles per hour, they can be quite elusive when attempting to swat them.
They are generally more sluggish than other insects when it comes to flying, as they perceive things in slow motion.
According to researchers, the smaller the species, the more quickly they perceive light flickering, which causes them to slow down.
Wasps versus Honeybees
The honey bee flies at an average speed of 19 miles per hour. However, that is not as quick as murdering hornets, which have been known to decimate bee hives by stealing their larvae and pupae to feed their offspring.
Honey bees are truly designed to carry nectar and pollen back to their hives in large quantities.
However, when compared to humans, a bee can clearly keep up with a human’s average speed.
This explains why bees will pursue humans for an extended period of time. Bees’ wings beat at a rate of 230 beats per second, which is quite fast for such small insects.
They keep the same beats while hovering over flowers in search of pollen and nectar.
If you’re interested in learning more about how different species of bees compare, check out our article Carpenter Bees Vs Bumblebees Vs Honey Bees.
Wasps Vs Hummingbird Moths
Hummingbird moths are an excellent food source for paper wasps, which feed on moths. In comparison to wasps, these moths appear to be quite slow, with wings beating at a rate of only 70 beats per second. However, they reach speeds of up to 12 miles per hour.
This means that a wasp pursuing a hummingbird moth may have difficulty catching up with it.
Hummingbird Moth Hummingbird moths are named for their ability to hover like a hummingbird.
Butterflies vs Wasps
Even the fastest wasp on the planet, the Asian giant hornet, cannot outrun a butterfly. The butterfly can reach speeds of 37 miles per hour and has some of the best natural reflexes of any insect.
The skipper butterfly is one of the swiftest insects found on the planet.
The term “butterfly” is derived from their extremely swift flight patterns. Did you know that the skipper butterfly can keep up with the pace of a horse during a race? In essence, a butterfly can outrun a human.
How Long Can Wasps Fly For?
When wasps search for food, they typically fly between 275 and 915 meters from their nests. This is a relatively short distance in comparison to bees, which forage up to five miles from their hive. Additionally, it is small in comparison to flies, which forage at least a mile from home, and moths, which can travel 113 miles per year.
Wasps are actually intelligent insects that devise a flight plan for the day when they leave their nest. They conduct test flights along their flight paths to identify visual cues that will aid them in locating their nest upon their return.
Because these insects have low-resolution vision, they may become disoriented if they do not recognize the cues. Cues include stones, debris, and fallen leaves in their immediate environment.
Jochen Zeil of the Australian National University studied the behavior of wasps as they leave their nest. When they depart, they face the entrance rather than outwards toward their destination.
They then fly in an arc, keeping an eye on the entrance while shifting their gaze from side to side. The insects maintain the same arc of flight but gradually move away from the nest.
While they maintain an eye on the entrance as they fly further, they also have a vantage point from which to pick up on cues in the environment surrounding their nest and near the entrance. The wasps create a zigzag path in the process.
These clever insects remember how their nest appears from various vantage points as a result of viewing it from various angles. Thus, regardless of the direction or distance traveled while foraging, the wasps have markers to assist them in returning home.
And this behavior is shared by all insects belonging to the order Hymenoptera, including wasps, bees, and ants.
The question of why wasps appear to be attracted to lights is related to this topic of a wasp’s sense of direction. How do lights cause wasps to become confused? If you’re interested in learning more about this, check out our article, Are Wasps Attracted To Light?
Can You Outrun A Wasp?
A healthy, fit human runs at an average speed of 20 miles per hour. Therefore, if you are fleeing a yellowjacket, a paper wasp, or an average hornet, you may be able to outrun them.
Being fit, on the other hand, is an ideal situation. You could be recovering from an injury or your running speed is slower than average. Additionally, children and the elderly may be unable to maintain the average speed.
This puts them in danger of being stung before they can flee.
If you are unfortunate enough to come across a swarm of Asian giant hornets, colloquially known as murder hornets, outrunning them may prove impossible due to their 25 MPH top speed.
The good news is that wasps, when not provoked, are generally non-aggressive. They will attack only if they perceive a threat. However, despite the fact that they rarely kill humans, their sting can be quite painful.
To avoid being stung by a wasp, it is best to flee the area as quickly as possible without waving your arms around, as this will be interpreted as threatening by the wasp.
Bear in mind that wasps are primarily concerned with protecting their nest, and once they determine you are sufficiently removed to pose no threat, they will usually stop bothering you and return to their nest.
The wasp is a tough insect that deserves respect for its ability to defend its territory, build a home, and keep pests out of your garden. While they are not the fastest insects on the planet, they can move at a high rate of speed.
Except for yellowjackets, which can be a little testy, wasps are not aggressive by nature.
Regrettably, yellowjackets adore picnics, and picnics inevitably involve human contact. While you may be able to avoid a bald face hornet if you spot it early enough, yellowjackets can be quite persistent when they raid your picnic.
Attempt to avoid swatting at them or capturing them. This will only exacerbate their agitation and serve as a precursor to an attack.
It is critical to educate children about the dangers of agitating wasps when they come across their nests. Not only is a wasp sting painful, but it can also be fatal for those allergic to their venom.