Wasps vs. Bees
Wasps vs. Bees. There are several different kinds of these stinging insects, and people often confuse them.
The term “wasps” can refer specifically to Paper wasps, but in the general sense, it can also include other “social wasps” such as hornets and Yellow jackets, and also to a less social, less aggressive type of stinging insect known as the Mud dauber.
As for bees, most people imagine bumble bees or honey bees but the term “bee” has broader application. Bees are members of the Apidae family, and the term can include a range of insects that can fly, collect pollen, and consume nectar. Not all bees sting, but some of them do, so caution around them should be taken, especially by those who are allergic to bee stings.
The same goes for wasps. Anyone with allergy to their stings should be extra careful about exposure to them.
What are some of the major differences between wasps and bees?
What Are Bees?
Bees, usually rounded, oval-shaped and easily recognizable in black and yellow striping, feature very strong exoskeletons to help protect their fluffy bodies. Their bodies consist of their heads, thorax, and abdomens, and most have two pairs of wings.
Do Bees Sting?
Most bees are known stingers, but they do what they can to avoid interaction with humans and other animals larger than them. One key difference between bees and wasps is that bees have barbed stingers, and once they sting a perceived threat, they cannot remove the stinger from the victim’s flesh. When the bee tries to fly away, it literally rips itself apart, leaving its stinger (and part of its abdomen) in the stung enemy’s skin. Bees die shortly afterward.
Wasps also sting, but their stingers are not barbed. What does this mean? It means wasps can inflict several painful stings into an enemy. It will sting over and over again.
Bumble Bees vs. Honey Bees
Most people don’t know the difference between bumble bees and honey bees. They are actually quite different, though both live in colonies.
Bumble bees are fuzzier and significantly larger in size, and their nests are sized somewhat smaller than those of honey bees. They build underground nests compared to honeybee nests which are built in trees.
Honey bees have stingers, and they have brown to black bodies with yellow striping. They also have a pair of antennae and strong mouthparts.
Carpenter Bees vs. Bumble Bees
There is another kind of bee that you usually don’t hear a lot about: Carpenter bees. These bees nest in wooden structures in order to lay eggs. They are shiner in appearance, and not fuzzy like Bumble bees, which nest in the ground.
What Are Wasps?
There are well over 30,000 different kinds of wasps, and though most, if not all, of them can sting, not all are aggressive. Wasps come in a wide range of colors, including the presumed black and yellow striped pattern, but you can also find wasps in unexpected colors like red and blue.
More aggressive wasp species are known as “social wasps“ because they live in colonies. These social wasps (the ones you want to watch out for) include Paper wasps, hornets, Yellow jackets, and the not-so-social, but less aggressive Mud daubers.
Wasps usually have three body segments, three pairs of legs (as do most insects, by definition), and stingers they use to help them defend their nests from perceived threats.
Most wasps found in the United States have long and thin bodies, along with strong mouthparts. Paper wasps use their mouthparts to gather wood/wood fibers to create pulp and build their “paper” nests.
Do Wasps Sting?
Yes, and yes. As mentioned, wasps can not only sting, they can inflict their enemies with multiple stings. They are incredibly aggressive by instinct if they feel threatened, even if by accident.
Wasps vs. Bees
Wasps and bees, though both are pollinators and good for the ecosystem, are very different insects. Wasps are instinctively predatory, while bees are much more “laid back” and not aggressive. Wasps hunt and kill, while bees enjoy hanging around flowers and consume plant saps and nectars. Also, bees have stockier necks and heads and fatter bodies.
Wasps attack in groups. When wasps feel threatened, they emit a pheromone scent to alert their fellow wasps to swarm and attack a perceived threat. This is why it’s a bad idea to squish a wasp. The pheromone scent released will alert other wasps to come swarm and attack their killer.
Are Wasps Good for Anything?
You may wonder, “What’s the big deal about wasps? Why do we need them?” Wasps just as important for our environment as bees are.
Also, social wasps are predators and play a critical role in our ecosystem by helping to control unwanted numbers of pests like caterpillars and beetles. Wasps also help keep spider populations from overwhelming us.
Are Wasps As Good As Bees?
Yes. They help pollinate our flowers and food crops. No wasps would mean we’d have significantly tons more bugs on this planet than we already do, bugs that could systematically destroy our gardens, yards, and valuable crops. Sure, you don’t want to get stung by a wasp, but from a safe distance, you can be glad that they’re around!
Do Wasps Kill Bees?
Some social wasp species are known to attack beehives, which makes raising bees in areas where these wasps thrive extremely difficult. Some wasps love bee honey.
One single hornet can hang out near the entrance of a beehive, and just kill off bees one at a time. Bees are capable of defending themselves, but hornets and other wasps tend to be larger, and can attack a beehive in droves if necessary.
Which Is More Dangerous? Wasps or Bees?
Both wasps and bees can inflict painful stings. Social wasps have smooth, angular bodies, unlike bees, and they are usually larger. They can usually fly faster, they can attack in swarms, and are definitely more aggressive. As mentioned, wasps are heartier and can sting multiple times without dying off.
As for which is more “dangerous,” it really comes down to allergies. Which stinging insects is an individual or animal allergic to?
What’s the Most Aggressive Wasp?
Yellow jackets are very well known for being extremely aggressive. Another feature of Yellow jackets is that their nests can contain up to 5,000 inhabitants, as opposed to Paper wasps, whose nests usually contain no more than 75 to 100 stinging insects. The record size of a Yellow jacket nest contained more than 100,000 insects!
Yellow jacket nests are also more covertly hidden, more often than not hidden in the ground or in the hollow of a tree.
Should You Leave a Wasp Nest Alone?
Both bees and wasps instinctively defend their nests/hives, but they won’t attack you unless they feel they are being threatened, even if it’s by accident. If left alone, these stinging insects will leave you alone.
It is recommended that you do not attempt to remove a wasp nest, especially if you have an allergy. If you must remove a nest, it is recommended that you douse the nest with a reliable wasp & hornet killer thoroughly, from a safe distance, then wait a month before tearing down the dead, empty nest.
Do What You Can to Prevent Stings
You might be OK with bees in your garden, but you’ll want to be extra careful of wasps. You can help keep wasps away from your home and avoid stings by doing a combination of things including: better sanitation, better environment modifications, and implementing smart dress and grooming tips. Fewer wasps out in your yard will guarantee fewer to no wasps in your house. Remember, wasps are also beneficial pollinators, but can be very dangerous to you, your family, and your pets.
- Make sure that all garbage cans have tight fitting lids.
- Seal up cracks and crevices around your home and make sure all door and window screens are in good repair. Screen over vents and pipe/utility entry points into your home.
- Carefully dispose of all food and drinks, especially soft drink cans.
- Avoid strong perfumes/lotions and bright clothing.
- Protect your feet with closed-toe shoes.
- Clean up any spills, food crumbs, and garbage around your home.
- When outdoors, keep food and drinks covered. Check for wasps before drinking.
- Rinse out garbage cans with bleach frequently (this will help cut down on fly, roach, and ant activity, too).
- Keep your yard clean, mowed, and de-cluttered.
- Dispose of fallen and rotting fruits and vegetables.
- Use home pest control products to kill wasps and then knock-down nests (after about a month). Learn how to use Harris Wasp and Hornet Killer.
PF Harris can help with all your home pest control needs. We are America’s oldest EPA-registered pest control company, so you can trust our products and expertise.