As I blog about bees (and at times other interesting and beautiful insects), I try to cover interesting facts that the public may like to know about these amazing creatures. One of my cherished blog readers brought up a question. A question that I know many people out there would like to know the answer to. When I read his question it brought a smile to my face. You see, since I study bees, read about bees, and watch bees, I at times forget that others out there may not know some bee basics. And I am not saying that not knowing these bee basics is bad. Heck, I didn’t even know these bee basics until I started studying them. At that time I was only able to name 2 types of bees: honeybees and carpenter bees. That is why reading that question brought me back.
The question asked by Forkboy was: “perhaps you could briefly explain the diff between bees and those stinging/flying bugs we call wasps and yellow jackets.”
I can answer this…
First, bees, wasps, and ants are all classified under the same order. Hymenoptera. Bees evolved from wasps, so they are similar in some ways, and different in others. So here are a some differing characteristics between bees and wasps:
The picture above is of a wasp. Unlike bees, wasps have little…and I mean LITTLE to no hair on their body. Look at the smoothness of her body above. It’s as if she has gone through laser hair removal. Completely hairless. Wasps are carnivores. They eat meat or other insects. The only time they visit flowers is for nectar, which provides a sugar boost. Other than that, hair is nor needed to help gather pollen, so they don’t have any.
Second, there is that very pinched waste look. Bees have a robust full body, whereas wasps have this very defined pinch after their midsection (thorax) and then the abdomen. Wasps have the classic “hourglass” figure.
Bees on the other hand…
All bees have hair on some part of their body. Some bees are extremely super fuzzy, like bumblebees. And others like the bee above look like they have no hair on their body…but they do. Look at her legs and under her abdomen. There are tiny hairs. Bees eat pollen from flowers. They use it to feed their young, so they need hairs to help keep the pollen on their bodies while they fly around. No hairs on the body? It’s gonna be a wasp then.
Characteristic number 2 is how bees and wasps fly. Bees tend to keep all their legs tucked in (as much as possible), like an airplane. You can see in this picture how all her legs are tucked tightly together.
Wasps are have a different pose when flying. They have the front 4 legs tucked in like bees, but the pair of back legs just hang. They hang and just flop around in the wind.
So, to summarize: Bees-have hair to collect pollen, eat pollen as a food source, and keep their legs tucked during flight.
Wasps- little to no hair (usually none), eat other insects/meat, and leave their legs hanging during flight.
Now that I have gone over the basics, I have a favor to ask you all…my blog readers. If there are any questions you have please let me know. No matter how lame you may think they are…wouldn’t it be great to know the answer? Besides, no question regarding bees is EVER lame!