It’s not easy to tell the difference between bees, wasps or hornets. A closer look will show significant physical differences among these three stinging insects.
Furthermore they exhibit differences regarding their behavior, diet, nesting habits, aggressiveness and so on.
When you spot any these insects, you might want to know exactly what you’re dealing with. This guide summarizes some important features for differentiating the three insects.
Bees vs. Wasps vs. Hornets – Differences?
Bee: The color of bees can range between yellow and black depending on the species. Bees share different traits with various bugs.
For instance honey bees have a golden-yellow color with a characteristic brown band. Bumblebees are tan in color with a yellow or orange coloration. Bees have 3 pairs of legs – and thus may be considered as insects.
Wasp: Wasps come in a myriad of colors. There are over 30,000 different wasps. Stinging wasps have bright colors which serve as a warning to intruders. For example, the yellow and black color on yellow jackets indicates they have the ability to sting.
Hornet: Usually hornets will appear to be black and white. However, the European hornet is brown with either orange or yellow markings. The yellow hornet is yellow and black in color.
2. Body Appearance
Bee: Bees have three body parts just like other insects – Head, thorax and abdomen. The part connecting the abdomen and thorax is thicker in bees than in both wasps and hornets. Bees come in different sizes depending on the species. Bumblebees are wider and hairy while honeybees are small in girth and less hairy.
Wasp: A wasp’s body is segmented into three parts with a characteristic thin waistline which distinguishes them from either bees or hornets. They have a slim body which is less hairy compared to bees.
Hornet: Hornets are close relatives of wasps although they emerge from different species. They have a larger body and thicker waist when compared to wasps. Hornets look very similar to wasps – notice their elongated and thin body.
3. Nesting Habits
Bee: Although all bees live in colonies, their nesting habits vary from one species to another. Honeybees make their nests in voids found on walls or tree hollows. A typical honeybee colony can hold up to 10,000 bees.
On the other hand bumblebees live in underground burrows especially those abandoned by burrowing animals. They live in colonies of hundreds of bees.
Wasp: Wasps build nests using paper-like substance which they give out after chewing wood fiber. These nests appear as open-end hexagonal cells similar to honeycombs.
Wasp nests can be found under sheltered building eaves, tree branches, open pipes and in places like garage and attics. The location of nests depends on the wasp species. While mud daubers prefer building nests in higher areas, yellow jackets will build nests on the ground.
Wasp nest can be as small as a golf ball and grow to as large as football or even bigger. Enormous nests of up to 15000 wasps have been found in Alabama.
Hornet: Hornet nests appear as paper-like substances with a greyish color. However, unlike the bee and wasp nests, they are oval shaped. They construct their nests overhanging from higher places like tree, chimneys, outside buildings, poles and so on.
A hornet nest starts as a small piece but can grow to the size of basketball.
4. Diet and Feeding
Bee: A bee’s diet mainly entails pollen and nectar. Since they have a craving for sweet food, they also feed on sweet juices such as those found in fruits and soft drinks. That’s why you might see bees hovering around during your outdoor parties or treats.
The worker bees do the work of collecting nectar and pollen and bringing it to the nests for the rest of the colony.
Wasp: Wasps forage for their food among invertebrates such as flies, spiders, ants, caterpillars and other small insects. Some are omnivorous and will feed on honeydew, nectar and fallen fruits.
Hornet: Hornets are omnivorous – they feed on sugary plant foods such as tree sap and rotting fruits. They’re also predators of small insects such flies among other.
Bee: Bees are less aggressive than both wasps and hornets – but can sting. Bees will not sting you unless they feel threatened or when defending their nests. But unlike wasps and hornets, they have barbed stingers which bite only once.
Wasp: Wasps are more aggressive than bees but not as aggressive as hornets. Like others in the Vespidae family, they can sting several times, each time withdrawing their stinger form the victim.
Wasps may also sting – they usually sting when provoked or defending their nests.
Hornet: Hornets are very quick at stinging. They will sting at the slightest provocation. They belong to the Vespidae family whose stingers are not barbed. That means they can sting several times because of the ability to withdraw their stinger.
A hornet sting inflicts a lot pain and can sometimes lead to fatal allergic reactions in some individuals.
Check this: How to treat Hornet and Wasp Stings
6. Nest Behavior
Bee: A bee nest consists of the queen, female workers and the male drones. The queen lays eggs while the drones do the work of mating with the queen. Female workers are responsible for housekeeping, gathering food, protection and feeding larvae.
Wasp: Most of the wasp species live a solitary life. In this case, mature females dig or construct nests near food sources in order to live and lay eggs. A few species exhibit a social behavior where they live as community. These include the yellow jackets and paper wasps.
A colony of social wasps mainly entails the queen and the female workers. Males leave the hive immediately after mating and die due to dehydration. Mating occurs in summer where the females hibernate only to start new colonies in spring. New males for the next mating season emerge from the unfertilized eggs.
Female workers are tasked with all communal work including gathering food, housekeeping, feeding the larvae and protecting the colony.
Hornet: At the centre of a hornet hive is the queen whose sole function is to lay eggs for reproduction. The seemingly few males in the nest only do the work of mating and will die soon after mating.
Female hornets perform daily communal jobs such as getting food, building the nest, protection and feeding the larvae.
How to Control Bees, Wasps and Hornets in Your Home
Bees, wasps and hornets are valuable insects in the ecosystem as they help in eliminating insect pests. Some of these stinging insects also help in pollinating flowering plants including those that provide us with food.
However, sometimes these insects can pose a great danger to people especially when they build nests near dwelling places. They can inflict pain with their stings and sometimes cause fatal allergic reactions in some individuals.
When the presence of these insects poses such threats, it’s inevitable to get rid of them including their nests. Below is a guide for controlling threats posed by bees, wasps and hornets.
Read Also: Analyze our best carpenter bee traps
Locate the Nest
If you have been stung a number of times or suspect you have stinging insects, begin by investigating whether there’s a nest around. Common areas where stinging insects construct nests include:
- Tree branches
- Stacked wood
- Utility or fence poles
- Anything hollow including pipes and wood
- Underneath the roof awnings or canopy
- Underground burrows
Identify the Insect
It is important to know which of the three stinging insect you’re dealing with. That’s because not all of them pose a threat to your family. For instance, a bee nest in the garden can be left out since it doesn’t pose a big threat. Bees are not only less provocative but are also useful in pollinating flowering plants in the compound.
The above comparison will help you identify the insects with ease. In case you have difficulties in identification, you can contact an expert. Correct identification enables to effectively get rid of stinging insects from your home.
Check this: What’re our best spray kill wasps?
Treat and Remove the Nest
Treating or removing stinging insects is a very delicate process. If not done carefully, you might end up with painful stings or serious allergic reactions. If you’re dealing with aggressive species, it’s advisable to call a professional exterminator to do the work.
However, if you’re confident to handle the situation by yourself, follow these guidelines:
- If you’re not sure about your reaction to stings, get an allergy test from your doctor. Do not continue with the removal if the test is positive. Call an exterminator.
- Whether you’re an expert or a novice in removing stinging insects, ensure you wear protective clothing. Wear long pants, boots, long-sleeved hoodie, gloves, protective glasses, scarf and a hart.
- In case of an emergency, you need someone to give you first aid. So ensure there’s someone to do that. Also plan an escape route in case the mission fails.
- Now spray the nest with an insecticide of your choice. Be sure to get one that is labelled wasps, bees or hornets. Also ensure the product you get is a jet spray. This allows you to spray nests that are more than 10 feet high. The best time to remove these insects is after dusk or at dawn.
- Best results will be achieved if you spray a solid jet directly into the nest entrance and any other opening.
- If the nest is in a high place, don’t stay directly below the nest. You might sustain stings from falling insects.
- After spraying, stay away from the area for one day. Afterwards, you can remove and discard the nest if there’re no signs of insect activity.
You can’t be at peace when you have aggressive stinging insects around your home. It’s even worse when you don’t know exactly which of the stinging insect is disturbing you. This guide comes in handy to help you correctly identify bees, wasps and hornets.
Correct identification is the most important step when dealing with stinging insects. It allows you to understand the threat and embark on proper eradication remedies.