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How Can you tell Bees and Wasps Apart?

Species

There are many different types, varieties, and species of bees. Some of the most common are detailed below, including a few of the less desirable relations.

Honey Bee


The honey bee is not native to North America and was brought to the country to help pollinate agricultural crops. Honey bees are golden brown in color with black stripes on the abdomen.

They pollinate plants as they collect pollen on their legs while visiting flowers to collect nectar, which bees use as food. As they move from flower to flower, the pollen transfer from plant to bee and bee to plant, facilitating the pollination of various plants as the bee makes its journey.

Honey bees are unlikely to sting as they only choose to do this as a last resort – after stinging, the bee will die. The stinger is left in the victim after the event, but unfortunately for the bee, the stinger is attached to the bee’s digestive tract, so as it flies away a vital part of its anatomy is left behind.

Without pollinating bees, many crops would fail, causing huge issues for the health and wellbeing of humans around the world.

Wild honey bees usually build their hives in hollow trees, crevices in rocks, or other similar locations. When kept in captivity, the hives are typically built in structures created by humans.

Carpenter Bee

Carpenter bees are the larger cousin of honey bees, and got their name from their nesting habits – they bore holes into wood that are exceptionally neat. The female lays eggs in this hole, and when the eggs hatch, the bees come out one by one.

These bees have black bodies with thick black and yellow hair on their head and thorax. Their abdomen, however, is hair-free.

They are pollinators, but many people consider them to be the least desirable of all bees due to their habit of boring into wood and thereby damaging property. They are also known to bore into small flowers which they would otherwise be unable to fit into. This allows them to obtain nectar, but doesn’t help with pollination, and deprives smaller bee species of food and the opportunity to pollinate.

As with many other bees, the likelihood of stinging by carpenter bees is low.

Bumble Bee

Bumblebees are native to North America and differ in appearance from other bees. They are slightly larger than honey bees, but carpenter bees are much larger than both. The most noticeable difference from honey bees is in their coloring – they have a black body that is covered with thick yellow and black hair.

Just like honey and carpenter bees, bumble bees are effective pollinators, and won’t sting you unless it is as a last resort. There are many different species of bumblebee, but as a whole, they get their name from the noise they make when they are inside a flower.

The speed of their movement within a flower causes vibrations that are audible and cause pollen to fall right off the flower.

They build nests on the ground, often in holes that have been previously created by other animals.

Yellow Jackets, Wasps, and Hornets

Yellow jackets and some other wasps are often black and yellow, which can lead to confusion with bees. There are over 100,000 separate species of wasps, but it is not common to find a yellow jacket in a garden. Wasps can be pollinators but tend to focus more on eating other insects or any human food (especially meat) that has been left lying around. As such, they don’t visit flowers all that much.

Hornets are very similar to yellow jackets but are often larger, and can be colored black and white rather than black and yellow.

They are happy to sting as the first line of defense, as unlike bees, their stinger can be used multiple times and does not remain in the victim.

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