Is It A Wasp, Hornet, Yellow jacket, Or A Bee? How To Tell
Knowing the ‘enemy’ is a fundamental law of survival. In simpler terms, knowing who or what to avoid is key to keep from suffering unnecessary pain or worse — death. On a lighter note, telling one creature from the other is a way to identify if it is dangerous, if it is a predator or prey, if it can or cannot be domesticated, or if a peaceful level of coexistence can be established.
Which brings us to our topic, which is a basic lesson of identification: is it a wasp, a hornet, a yellow-jacket, or a bee? Here’s how to tell.
- All wasps and bees have three-part bodies, but wasps have thinner, pinched waists while bees have thicker waists.
- Most bees are hairy; most wasps are smooth and hairless.
- Wasps have fairly longer legs than bees. Bees have expanded hind legs for carrying pollen
- Bees collect pollen; wasps are carnivorous. Wasps attack, sting, and collect their insect prey to feed their larval offspring. There is only one known carnivorous bee specie — the Trigona hypogea, found in South America.
- Bees are usually not aggressive unless handled roughly. They usually only sting when defending their hive. Hornets do not sting when left alone but can be aggressive when defending their nests. Yellowjackets can sting even when out hunting or unprovoked.
- Honeybees can only sting once. A honeybee dies after stinging. Solitary bees, bumblebees, wasps, hornets and yellowjackets can sting multiple times.
- Most bees are brownish-yellow and black. Yellow jackets generally have body segments in alternating bright yellow and black stripes while hornets are black and white in color. Wasps can range in color from black to metallic greens and blues.
- Most wasps, including hornets and yellowjackets, fold their wings laterally, along the length of their body when at rest, giving their wings a thin, long appearance. Bees’ wings remain flat and open on their backs even when at rest. Yellowjacket wings are as long as their bodies.
- Yellowjackets are known scavengers. They are attracted to meat, fish, and sugary substances, so they can draw near open picnics and areas where there is trash.
- Hornets measure 1 to 1 ½ inches long. Yellowjackets are smaller, and measure 10 to 16 millimeters in length. Bees can measure from 3.9 centimeters up to 2 millimeters long. Wasps can range in size from microscopic up to several centimeters long.
Some of these insects can be harmless when left alone to pollinate, or hunt their prey, while some can be pesky and even dangerous if you’re trying to clean up your trash or have an al fresco picnic, as they may also choose to partake of your meal and may sting if you swat at them. Telling these insects apart is vital, especially during more outdoorsy spring and summer seasons. Identification leads to understanding, and understanding leads to the highest possibility of a relatively safe coexisting relationship.