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Differences between Bees and Wasps

Friday, June 21, 2013

What’s that buzzing around your picnic table? Is it a relatively harmless bumblebee or a dangerous yellow jacket? Here’s your guide to find out.

Bees and Wasps Are Closely Related

Bees actually evolved from wasps, so it’s no surprise that they share many features. They both have four wings and the typical three body parts and six legs that characterize insects. The wings distinguish them from flies, which have only two wings, but bees and wasps belong to a family called hymenoptera—“married wing,” which means that their wings hook together and may look like just two wings.

Wasps—What to Look for

When trying to determine if an insect is a bee or a wasp, look at the body. If it’s hairless, it’s a wasp. Wasps also tend to be more slender overall, especially at their pinched wasp waists.

You can also use behavior to distinguish bees and wasps. If you notice the insect crawling around on the ground, seeming to look for something, or if it does swarm around your table aggressively, trying to get at your food, it’s likely a wasp. Yellow jackets, which are responsible for most insect stings, like to eat human food, and they have the ability to sting repeatedly if you aggravate them.

Bees—What to Look for

You can identify bees by their hairy bodies and generally stout makeup. The stoutest bees are bumblebees, which are generally native species, while the more slender honey bee is an import from Europe.

Bee behavior also distinguishes them. They live on flower pollen and nectar, so you will see them flying from flower to flower. If you don’t disturb them, bees will generally leave you alone. Most bee stings occur when people are walking barefoot through a patch of low flowers, but some people are stung because they panic and try to kill bees.

Sweat Bees

There is one kind of bee that may seem to swarm around you too close for comfort. They may even land on you for a little while, then take off.

These are sweat bees, and, like their name implies, they actually like to drink your sweat. They feed off the proteins and salt in your sweat. The good news is that few of them sting, so if you just let them enjoy their meal they will go peacefully on their way.

If you have a flying insect pest you would like to remove from your home in Denver, Boulder, Castle Rock, or the surrounding area, we can help. Please contact Animal & Pest Control Specialist today.

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