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What's the Difference Between Bees and Wasps?

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You probably know that wasps and bees are different things, but you might not know exactly what that means. Are wasps a different kind of bee? Are they related at all? Do only certain bees or wasps produce honey? Is the one on your arm right now the kind that stings?!

 Wasps and bees both belong to the same order, Hymenoptera, and suborder, Apocrita, but they’re actually different insect groups. If you’re able to tell the difference between a bee and a wasp, you can learn how to prevent either insect from becoming a pest in your building. Here are some of the important differences between bees and wasps.


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The next time you want to know if the intimidating bug floating around your garbage can is a bee or a wasp, look for fuzz. Honeybees and bumblebee abdomens and thoraxes are covered in fur-like fuzz. Their distinctive yellow-and-black stripes will look fuzzy, almost like a furry mammal’s coat. Honey and bumblebees also tend to be a little chubbier than their wasp counterparts, with rounder bodies and broader wings.

 Wasps, on the other hand, look sleek and shiny. Their yellow-and-black stripes look solid and hard, a little like a beetle’s elytra. Wasps are skinnier and more aerodynamic than bees. They look a bit more like a conventional insect than bees. Ironically, when you picture a bee, you might actually be thinking of a wasp!


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You probably know that bees are among the world’s most important pollinators. Without them, the world would lose up to one third of their crops! Bees subsist almost exclusively on the nectar emitted by flowering plants. They use a combination of highly-developed evolutionary techniques to find the nectar they need. That means if you see a certain black-and-yellow insect in your flower garden, it’s probably a bee.

 Wasps aren’t as picky as bees. They’ll hunt and eat pretty much any pest smaller than they are. Wasps tend to be attracted to sweet food and liquids, rot, and other sugar-rich products. Their dietary flexibility means you could find wasps pretty much anywhere. If a yellow-and-black insect comes buzzing around your PB & J picnic (what? It’s a thing), you’re probably sharing your sandwich with a wasp.


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Preferred Environment

Bee are famous for living together in complex societies ruled by a queen. If you have a bee problem around your building, you’re bound to run into a hive eventually. Bees build hives near flowering plants. You can often find them dangling vertically on a tree or the side of a building. A beehive looks more-or-less how you picture it: a golden yellow, waxy structure with layers of hexagonal comb.

 Wasps construct their nests out of digested wood pulp, paper, garbage, or other animal’s nests. Because they lack beeswax for construction, wasps build nests on and around structures that will support them. Look for nests in dark corners, attics, roof gutters, chimneys, and vents. Wasps build nests in places where they can easily access food, so you might find them around your garbage.  


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Aah, the million dollar question: which one of these nasty customers is going to sting you. Both bees and wasps can sting humans. The difference is how they sting and why. Honeybee stingers are barbed, so pulling the stinger of the honeybee’s body kills it. Therefore, honeybees only sting as a last resort.

Bumblebees and wasps don’t have barbs, so they can sting repeatedly. Like honeybees, bumblebees only sting defensively. Wasps, however, use their stingers to hunt. The venom wasp’s inject into stung prey act as a paralytic to small insects. It feels painful to humans, but isn’t dangerous unless you’re allergic to it. Wasps sting to defend their hunting and mating territory and sting humans more frequently than bees.


Bees and wasps can seem really intimidating, but they’re not really out to get you. In the proper place, bees and wasps are extremely beneficial, even essential insects.

That being said, we certainly don’t blame you for thinking that your business isn’t the right place for them. If you’re worried about a bee or wasp infestation around your property, let Assured know right away. We know how to handle any of New York’s many species of bees and wasps, and we can make sure they get where they should be and stop bugging you.

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