Bees, Wasps & Hornets; What’s the difference?

If you saw a black and yellow flying insect, would you know if it was a wasp, bee, or a hornet? Here is how to tell them apart.

Wasps, bees, and hornets are members of the order Hymenoptera, a diverse group of species that typically live in colonies. They may look the same, but their difference is in terms of where they live, what they feed on, and their likelihood to sting you.

  1. BeesBees are generally easy to spot; this is due to their golden coloring and the presence of tiny hairs all over their bodies. They have small legs that tuck in and can be found around flowers. Bees do more than 50% of all pollination; this is done while bees feed on pollen and nectar. They live hives and store honey in hexagonal cells made from wax, also known as honeycomb. Honeybees do not search for something to attack; they are defensive and will only attack if their colony is threatened. They die after stinging due to the damage caused to their abdomen when their barbed stinger is left in their victim.
  2. WaspsIt can be spotted by its bright yellow and black rings, defined waist, and tapered abdomen with long visible legs. Honey bees love flowers, but wasps want to eat your picnic food. They can feed on nectar though they may gather around garbage, sweet drinks, and human food. Many wasp species are predators eating other insects like spiders, caterpillars, and beetles. Wasps make their nests from small pieces of wood which they chew to a pulp forming a texture similar to paper. Only female wasps sting and they can do so more than once.
  3. HornetsHornets are types of wasp that are usually a little rounder and bigger than the common wasp. Hornets differ from wasps in their brown, red, and yellowish-orange markings with a little black on the body. They are known to be less aggressive than wasps if unprovoked though their stings are more painful to humans than a typical wasp sting because of the chemicals found in hornet venom. If a nest is disturbed, there is a high chance you will get stung, and since they can sting more than once, caution should be observed when close to them.

In general, bees have a rounder, fatter abdomen than wasps, which tend to be narrower in that area. Some wasps have a long, threadlike waist connecting the thorax with the abdomen. Hornets have a fatter ‘belly’ compared to other wasps, and as such may be mistaken for bees. Hornets and wasps frequently make nests out of paper or mud, while honey and bumblebees build nests out of wax.

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