Difference Between Bees, Wasps, And Hornets

By Mike Floorwalker on Thursday, July 18, 2013
Honeycomb
“That which is not good for the bee-hive cannot be good for the bees.” —Marcus Aurelius

In A Nutshell

Bees are furry and wasps are not. Bees use pollen to make and eat honey, while wasps are carnivores. Hornets are typically black and white or black and yellow, while bees are usually a more golden color. Bees die when they sting but wasps, hornets, and bumblebees don’t. They also all have differences in nesting and protection of their territory.

The Whole Bushel

First, there’s an easy way to tell between honeybees (the most common) and wasps—bees are furry, and wasps are smooth and generally hairless. Honeybees will generally leave you alone unless you bother them and will then leave you alone if you stop, and they die shortly after they sting. Wasps, by contrast, do not die after stinging. They are known to attack unprovoked, and—especially if their nests are disturbed—will chase people hundreds of yards once in attack mode. Also, bees collect pollen and pollinate flowers; wasps are carnivorous, eat other insects, and do not help with pollination.

There are also a couple of variations on wasps: hornets, which are larger and have black and white rings instead of black and yellow; and yellow jackets, which closely resemble wasps but nest underground instead of above ground. Like wasps, hornets and yellow jackets can sting multiple times. Their venom (and honeybee venom) can be deadly for those with allergies (and not exactly pleasant for those without).

Also, let’s not forget about the other type of bee—the bumblebee. They may have the cutest name, but you’ll know one when you see one by the fact that it’s absolutely huge, very loud in flight, and capable of inducing panic attacks in otherwise rational adults. They have black and yellow stripes and pollinate like honeybees—but like wasps and their cousins, bumblebees can sting you as many times as they like.

Show Me The Proof

Bees, Wasps, and Hornets: What You Need To Know
Gardeners.com: All About Yellow Jackets,
Bees and Their Kin

  • Diana

    Good to know! I’ve always wondered what the differences were. Going to google pics now.

  • rhijulbec

    Informative and concise, thank you.

  • cire

    informative differences.

  • Helen Magnus

    Nice, but you’re incorrect in a few bits. Hornets are not always black and white. Ours here are red and yellow. They vary around the world. Also, wasps absolutely DO pollinate, along with beetles and flies. Not as much as bees, but their percent cannot be ignored. Wasps are also fuzzy, including on their eyes. It’s just not as pronounced as on bees.

    • inconspicuous detective

      they don’t eat pollen either, they eat the nectar in the flower and pick the pollen up. bees also don’t always sting and die, the death is caused when they sting and pull their guts out when they leave the stinger behind. it’s supposed to give off a hormone that makes other bees attack to defend the hive. bees are up there with some of my favorite animals: nature’s socialists.

  • Timothy53

    I have had the opportunity to observe bumblebees and they seem, if not intelligent, then at least curious. They seem to come over to visit and observe what you are doing, and not in an altogether defensive mode. They are an interesting little bug.

    • Joe Cowan

      I have read that carpenter bees (bumble bees that are pretty common) are usually not very harmful. Only the females attack and that is usually when they are aggressively provoked. The male bumble bees of this kind are actually very curious and will probably fly in your face if you come near their nest because they just are curious.

  • Benjamin Wagner

    Another fact about bumblebees of which some may not be aware is that, like their cousins the honeybees, they also make honey, although not in the same quantity.

  • Rosalie Kitchen

    Wasps are assholes, bees are not

  • http://www.fpclambeth.co.uk/ Hannah Murray

    Great topic, I think identifying insects (as well as plants) is vital knowledge for anyone. I’m glad someone pointed out that wasps and other insects also pollinate plants (not as much as bees, yes). It’s one of those misconceptions about the world around us, like most people don’t know that bumblebees also produce honey. However, they do not stock their larders for winter, because only the queen survives the winter. They only make as much honey as to feed their colonies during spring and summer, which is why beekeepers don’t keep bumblebees.

  • http://crackedtool.com/ Sana Afridi

    I have read that woodworker honey bees (honey bees that are really normal) are typically not exceptionally hurtful. Just the females assault and that is typically when they are forcefully incited. The male honey bees of this kind are quite inquisitive and will most likely fly in your face on the off chance that you draw close to their home on the grounds that they simply are interested. Amazing

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