How to Tell Honey Bees & Wasps Apart

Wasps and honey bees can be mistaken for one another because both insects are capable of giving painful stings. While honey bees can attack when provoked, wasps are naturally and more aggressive predators. Identifying the difference between honey bees and wasps is important in order to administer proper treatment of wounds and appropriate pest control.

Wasps and honey bees are both members of the Hymenoptera order of insects. However, their physical bodies are different. Honey bees measure around 2.54 cm long. Some have entirely black bodies, while others are black or brown with orange or yellow striations. Honey bees are hairy, while wasps usually have smooth and shiny skin. Wasps are narrow-waisted, have four wings and may be brightly colored, with black and yellow patterns.

Wasps and bees also differ in lifestyle and habits. Honey bee colonies can have populations over 75,000, while wasps' colonies tend to have fewer than 10,000 individuals. Queen wasps build a nest for their colony, while worker honey bees create and maintain hives. Unlike most wasps that hibernate during the winter season and build a new nest the following autumn, honey bees do not hibernate, as they live on food reserves and heat accumulated by thousands of workers. Wasp species cannot produce honey, but all species of honey bees are capable of producing and storing sizeable amounts of honey within their hives. While honey bees can sting only once and die after attacking, a single wasp is capable of stinging multiple times.

More Information

Honey Bee Behavior

How Do Honeybees Make Hives?

What Do Honey Bees Collect?

What Do Honey Bees Eat?

Honey Bee Dance

Honeybee Pollination

Honey Bee Sting

Anatomy of a Honeybee Sting

Resources

Dig Deeper on Honey Bees

What is the Habitat of a Honey Bee? | Honey Bee Colonies

Bee Sting Allergies | Get Rid of Stinging Insects

How are Bumblebees and Honey Bees Different?

How to Identify European Honey Bees | Bee Facts

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What Do Bee Stings Look Like? | Prevent Bee Stings

Honey Bees

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Honey Bee Colony

What Do Honey Bees Collect?

Life Cycle of a Honey Bee

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