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What’s the difference between bees, wasps and hornets?

Bees, wasps and hornets are the same species, however, there are some major differences between them. For example, bees are pollinators, spending much of their lives visiting various plants and flowers to gather and distribute pollen. Their hairy bodies and flat legs are perfect for holding on to pollen. On the other hand, wasps and hornets are predators. While adults may occasionally feed on nectar or pollen, they feed insects, arthropods, flies and even caterpillars to their young. Their bodies are sleeker and more streamlined for hunting.

What do bees, wasps and hornets look like?

Wasps and hornets are the same species, and they have a slender body with a narrow waist, slender, cylindrical legs, and appear smoothed-skinned and shiny. Bees are robust-bodied and very hairy compared with wasps. Their hind legs are flattened for collecting and transporting pollen. Bees are important pollinators.

What a bee looks like

about bees and bee stings

What a wasp looks like

about wasps and wasp stings

What do bees, wasps and hornets eat?

Wasps are predators, feeding insects and other arthropods to their young, which develop in the nest. They are beneficial because they prey on many insects, including caterpillars, flies, crickets, and other pests. During late summer and fall, as queens stop laying eggs and their nests decline, wasps change their food gathering priorities and are more interested in collecting sweets and other carbohydrates. Some wasps may become aggressive scavengers around human food and may be common around outdoor activities where food or drinks are served.

The interesting thing about bees is that they only feed on nectar and pollen from flowers. Honey bees sometimes visit trash cans and soft-drink containers to feed on sugary foods.

Why are wasps so dangerous?

If a wasp stings you because you disturb it, then it is possible to suffer a severe allergic reaction. If you are stung near a nest then a chemical called a pheromone is released and this causes the wasps in the nest to flood out and attack. If the nest is large, the number of wasp stings will likely be in the hundreds and can overwhelm the body, again leading to life threatening complications.

What should I do about bee stings?

Honey bees leave their sting behind in your skin and this continues to pump venom into you for a few minutes. You should therefore scrape it off straight away, with your fingernail, a blunt knife, or even the edge of a credit card. If the bee sting is on or near your hands, remove any rings in case of swelling. Bee stings hurt for a while and may itch for a few days, but usually there are no serious effects. However, some people can be severely affected, so if you have any symptoms away from the site of the bee sting or are concerned, particularly if you are having difficulty breathing, seek medical advice straight away.

Should I worry about bees making holes in my wall?

These are solitary bees and it depends on the species of bee whether they will damage your wall. Most mason bees nest in pre-existing cavities and do not harm the walls. However, there are certain bees that tunnel into soft mortar and can do damage.

Do solitary bees sting?

Like almost all female bees, solitary bees do have a sting, but they are not aggressive and are very unlikely to sting unless you handle them very roughly. Honey bees have a large store of honey to protect, which is why they sting to defend their homes.

Do bees and wasps die after stinging?

Bees have barbs on the sting that get stuck in the victim’s skin. As the bee struggles to free itself, the sting and venom sac are pulled out of the bee, resulting in death. Wasps do not have barbed stings and can sting many times if they want to.

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Did you know?

To produce a single jar of honey, foraging honey bees have to travel the equivalent of three times around the world.
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