Although all bees and wasps are a type of insect and branch out from the same family, many people do get them confused. While they are closely related, wasps are perceived to be the more dangerous and predatory of the Hymenoptera family.
Are Wasps and Bees Related?
Both wasps and bees are closely related, and they come from the same family. This group of insects is called the Hymenoptera family. Within Hymenoptera, there are many species of bees, wasps, ants, sawflies, and hornets.
Hymenoptera is derived from the Greek word for “hymen” which means “membrane,” and pteron, which translates to “wing.” In this family, there are over 130,000 species that have been recognized and thousands more that have not yet been identified.
Why Do People Confuse Wasps With Bees?
Wasps get a bad reputation from homeowners because they tend to be aggressive. Many people fear wasps and will flee or seek to destroy the nests. When fear sets in, it’s natural to mistake a bee for a wasp. Some bees have similar features to wasps, like yellow and black bodies, but most wasps can look drastically different from bees.
What Are the Main Differences Between Wasps and Bees?
One of the most noticeable things about bees is that they have bulbous bodies that are hairy. On the other hand, wasps tend to have longer, sleeker bodies with less hair on them. Bees like honey bees can have a softer appearing colour, whereas wasps have a bold colour that’s distinctive.
Below are some of the notable differences between wasps and bees:
|Nest||Bee nests are generally oval-shaped. Wasps' nests are spherical, grey, and look like they are made out of paper.|
|Stingers||Unlike honey bees, wasps do not lose their stingers when they attack, which means they can sting multiple times when they feel irritated or provoked.|
|Pollination||Though wasps are not dedicated pollinators like bees, they do carry pollen and indirectly pollinate while travelling from flower to flower consuming their nectar.|
|Colony||Some species of bees and wasps are solitary, however many of them are social and live in colonies. The number of wasps in a colony can reach up to 100 while bees can have thousands of workers in one colony.|
|Diet||Many wasps are predators. While young, they will eat crickets, spiders, aphids, beetles, and caterpillars. Mature wasps feed on nectar. Bees on the other hand are not predators. Their diet is made up of pollen and nectar from flowers or other sugary substances.|
What Is the Difference Between Wasps’ and Bees’ Nature?
Each bee plays a different role in nature. Wasps are predators and will keep pests from entering your garden, though they do act as pollinators in certain circumstances.
Bees, on the other hand, are the world’s best pollinators. Wasps typically kill insects for food for larvae or to act as an incubation host, but the adults feed on nectar. Bees are strictly insects that feast on pollen and nectar. They both have different yet equally important roles.
How to Identify a Wasp?
Knowing the differences in size, shape, and colour help to identify a wasp and a bee. Wasps may have bold, bright colours and sleek bodies free from excessive hair. Some wasps are black, while others are bright yellow-orange or yellow. Wasps are also more slender than bees.
Their legs are flatter and hang down in flight, and wasps lack the pollen baskets bees have. They also have much longer tongues to access nectar deep in flowers. Wasps’ stingers don’t have barbs, unlike a honey bee.
Wasps are much longer than bumblebees or honey bees, but still appear somewhat similar in flight. They can fly and create the same rumbling, buzzing sound bees do. Some will be yellow and black, while others may be all black or all yellow.
Every wasp will be different in size, depending on its species, sex, and location. For example, the queen wasp will be between 2 to 2.5 centimetres in length and the workers will be anywhere between 1.2 and 1.7 centimetres. This creates challenges in differentiating a wasp from a bee.
Do Wasps Make Honey?
Wasps don’t produce honey as bees do. Instead, they are predators that prey on insects and invertebrates to feed their larvae or to use as a host body for eggs. These insects or invertebrates may be harmful to the environment, consuming healthy plants or spreading disease among plant life.
Even though they don’t pollinate or produce honey, they still play an important role in the ecosystem.
Wasps are also a food source for many other animals, including reptiles, amphibians, small mammals, birds, and other insects.
How to Identify a Bee?
Bees have thicker midsections than wasps and tend to be hairy. Their hair collects pollen and they have tiny baskets on their legs that can store and transport pollen.
Honey bees and other bees are much smaller than wasps. This is one of the key differences between the two, though it depends on the species. Bees will have shorter legs that are tucked in when flying, while wasps allow their legs to hang down. A honey bee may only be around 15 millimetres long, though other species may be longer or shorter.
What Is the Purpose of Bees?
A bee’s purpose in the ecosystem is different from that of a wasp. A bee is meant to pollinate flowers and produce honey to feed the hive for the next generation of bees to thrive.
A honeybee is part of their colony, while a wasp’s primary purpose is to hunt and scavenge for its young. Both are trying to sustain their species, but they go about it in vastly different ways.
Wasps Carry Both Differences From and Similarities to Bees
Many people confuse bees and wasps because sometimes they look similar, depending on the species. While both bring back food for their young and contribute to pollination, wasps play the role of aggressive predators to control the insect population more than as a pollinator.