Characteristics of common wasps and bees

While easily confused at a distance or without close observation, there are many different characteristics of common large bees and wasps which can be used to identify them.

  Bees Wasps (Family: Vespidae)
Western honey bee Bumblebee Yellow Jacket Paper Wasp Bald-faced hornet Hornet (European hornet)
Honeybee small.png Bfraternus6867.jpg European wasp white bg.jpg PolistesB2650.jpg Baldie.jpg Hornet-vespa.jpg
Colors Amber to brown translucent alternating with black stripes.[1] (video) Yellow with black stripes, sometimes with red tail, to dark. (video) Black and opaque bright yellow stripes. (video) Dusty yellow to dark brown or black. (video) Black and ivory white markings. (video) Black and dark body with yellow.[2] (video)
Coat Furry (short hair). Furry (long hair). Little or no hair. Some hair.
Size 1.3 cm (0.51 in) 2.5 cm (0.98 in)[3] 1.3 cm (0.51 in) 1.9 to 2.5 cm (0.75 to 0.98 in) up to 1.9 cm (0.75 in) up to 3.5 cm (1.4 in)
Legs Not generally visible while flying.[4] Two long legs are visible hanging down during flight. There are no pollen baskets.
Behavior Gentle.[5][6] Gentle.[6] Aggressive.[6] Gentle.[6] Aggressive.[6] Gentle.[6][7]
Food Nectar from flowers. Other insects, overripe fruit, sugary drinks, human food / food waste, meat.[8] Other insects.
Sting Kills bee.,[9] continues pumping (barbed) Retracts; can repeat (smooth).
Sting Pain 2.x 2.0 2.0 3.0 2.0 2.x[7]
Lights Not attracted to lights at night.[10] Attracted to lights at night.
Lives in Large colonies of flat wax-based honeycomb hanging vertically. Small cavities in the soil. Small umbrella-shaped papery combs hanging horizontally in protected spaces such as attics, eaves or soil cavities. Large paper nest, upside down pear shaped, hanging from branches. / eaves[11] Very large paper nest in hollow trees, sheltered positions.[12]



  1. ^ that is in general. Some are mostly black
  2. ^ there are different geographic colour forms
  3. ^ or more
  4. ^ When walking, light-colored pollen on the pollen baskets on a honeybee's rear legs can be visible.
  5. ^ Domesticated bees have been selected over time for gentleness. There are several races of domesticated honey bees with varying characteristics of honey production, disease resistance and gentleness.
  6. ^ a b c d e f Aggressive hive defense
  7. ^ a b Other hornet species (those not European hornet) have a more toxic sting, and are more aggressive[citation needed].
  8. ^ Yellowjackets are carnivorous during the brood rearing part of the season. They feed insects to their brood, and obtain the sugar for their flight-muscle energy mostly from secretions of the brood. During this time they can be attracted to traps baited with meat or fish. Near the end of summer, when brood rearing ceases and this sugar source is no longer available, yellowjackets become frantic for sugar, and can be baited with sugar-based baits. They are also much more likely to visit fall flowers for nectar, than they are earlier in the season.
  9. ^ Since the barbed stinger evolved as a colony defense against vertebrates, the invariable outcome of stinging a mammal or bird is that the stinger becomes lodged in the victim's skin and tears free from the honey bee's body, leading to her death within minutes. As such, there is rarely any evolutionary advantage for a bee to sting a mammal to defend itself as an individual; honey bees will generally only sting when the hive is directly threatened, and honey bees found in the field or on a flower will rarely sting. Note: Africanized honey bees can be more aggressive than the more common European honey bees, but still only defend the hive, and their sting is the same.
  10. ^ unless nest is disturbed
  11. ^ Also barns, attics
  12. ^ Has a brown protective layer when the nest is in an unsheltered position. Also barns, attics, hollow walls, abandoned bee hives

See also


Further reading

  • N. R. Levick, J. O. Schmidt, J. Harrison, G. S. Smith, and K. D. Winkel (2000). "Review of bee and wasp sting injuries in Australia and the U.S.A. § Bees versus wasps: Appearance, Behaviour, and Venom chemistry". In Andrew D. Austin and Mark Dowton. Hymenoptera: evolution, biodiversity and biological control. Csiro Publishing. pp. 439–440. ISBN 9780643066106. 
  • P. Gopalakrishnakone (1990). "Differences between wasps and bees". A Colour guide to dangerous animals. NUS Press. pp. 47. ISBN 9789971691509. 
  • Philip B. Mortenson (2008). "Bee · Wasp · Hornet · Ant". How to tell a turtle from a tortoise: a close look at nature's most confusing terms. Barnes & Noble. ISBN 9780760790021. 
  • Kevin T. Fitzgerald and Rebecca Vera (2006). "Insects — Hymenoptera". In Michael Edward Peterson and Patricia A. Talcott. Small animal toxicology (2nd ed.). Elsevier Health Sciences. ISBN 9780721606392. 

External links

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