Telling the difference between a bee and a wasp

Telling the difference between a bee and a wasp


Posted 15th Aug 2017


Mistaking a bee for a wasp can be easily done, with their similar appearances and ability to deliver a nasty sting leaving them hard to tell apart

However, it's important to have the knowledge to allow you to differentiate between a bee or a wasp, and it will allow you to administer the correct treatment to a sting

Bees and wasps both belong to the Hymenoptera order of insects, with their larvae resembling maggots - however, there are a lot of differences between the two, which allow you to distinguish between them...

Appearance

Bees

A bee will have a robust and hairy body with flat legs, and tends to measure up to around 2.5cms. Some bees will have an entirely black body whereas some are black or brown with the recognisable yellow markings.

Wasps

Wasps have smooth, shiny skin in comparison to the hairy body of a bee. This is where the first recognisable difference comes into play. Wasps are narrow waisted, with four wings, and can be a bright colour, with black and yellow patterns. They also have cylindrical shaped slender legs.

Food preferences

Bees

Bees are vegetarian and pollinators, which means they will sip nectar from flowers to feed. - they will also feed nectar and pollen to their young. Their flat and hairy bodies can hold the pollen, making it the ideal method to carry it from one area to another. They can also drink water as well as bringing it back to their hive to clean it.

Wasps

Wasps tend to be more predatory in nature, and like to feast on other insects such as caterpillars and flies. They are attracted to the smell of human food, and particular sugary drinks and beer. They are also drawn to food waste, so will be found hovering near bins.

Characteristics

Bees

Bees are typically gentle in nature and are reluctant to sting. However, on the occasion they do, they will generally die, as their stinger is barbed. By losing this, it can cause bodily injury that eventually proves fatal. Sociable insects, bees will have colonies that can number over 75,000. They build and maintain their hives, which are made up of densely packed hexagonal cells made of beeswax, called honeycomb. This is then used to store food and to house the next generations eggs, larvae and pupae. Honey bees do not typically hibernate, as they already have enough food stored, and enough heat accumulated by the thousands of workers, ensuring they have everything needed to survive winter.

Wasps

A wasp will be easily provoked, and, as they feed on other insects, tend to have a much more aggressive nature. Wasps can sting a target multiple times, with their smooth stinger able to slip out of its target with ease. A wasp is easily agitated, and can sting even when brushed away. However, if it feels threatened, a wasp will release hormones to mark a target ready for the swarm to attack. Wasps tend to be significantly less social than their cousins, with each colony having fewer than 10,000 individuals. However, wasps can also choose to live entirely on their own, and will make their hive using wood or mud. Wasps tend to hibernate during the winter season and will then build a new nest the following autumn.

Tutorial and images courtesy of Contego





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