Wasps, Carpenter, Bumbles and Honey Bees

So this seems obvious, but we meet people all the time that can’t tell the difference between wasps, honeybees, bumble bees, and carpenter bees – we can’t totally blame them as they have just enough similarities to make it confusing. However, there are pretty major differences that make the honeybee stand out both physically and culturally.

Differences between the bees and the wasps

Bees and wasps have a few similarities including having a similar body structure and can be easily confused if you’re not careful to notice the differences. Below are some differences between wasps and bees:

  • Food- bees depend on pollen and nectar for their food. Pollen and nectar contribute to their ability to produce quality honey. Wasps on the other hand, they prey on other insects. This has made the wasps one of the most feared insect among the insect world. Although, we’ve found that a wasp will absolutely dine out at our sugar feeders with the bees so they do not exist solely on insects. We do, however, set up wasp traps to help protect our little ladies from the big bad wasp. 
  • Behavior- when confronted by threatening situations, we must do whatever it takes to survive. This rule is interpreted and well seen in the bees and wasps. Bees are less aggressive than wasps. Bees attack only when provoked. Bees like the honeybee, sting a human once and their entrails are left with the stinger – this causes the bee to die within minutes.  Wasps however, can sting multiple times. A sting from the wasps is more painful than that of bees.
  • Body shape- wasps have a long and thin body while bees have a shorter, fatter body shape. Wasps tend to have very symmetrical stripes down their body while bees have more various stripes depending on type. 

Honey bees

These types of bees are known for their honey. Most beekeepers keep these bees. They live in colonies of 50,000 and 60,000 worker bees. They are communal and divide chores among themselves based on a caste system that changes throughout the bees life. For example, worker bees throughout their lives are responsible for nursing the larvae, foraging, guarding the hive, and keeping the hive clean. The queen lays eggs while the drones have the sole purpose of mating.

Bumble bee

Bumble bees colonies are much smaller as compared to the honey bees. Their colonies consist of 50 to 400 worker bees. Their nests are a lot less structured and are typically found in dark corners of gardens, in the ground, or other dark/dry places. Bumble bees are important to our ecosystem and are struggling in numbers year over year. 

Carpenter bee

From their name, one can guess what they do. They bore holes into trees to build their nest and are hunted by woodpeckers and other birds. The tunnels they create provide a nursery for brood and storage for the pollen and nectar for the brood to develop. Carpenter bees are often mistaken for bumble bees and are larger than the average honey bee. The eggs are very large relative to the size of the female, and are some of the largest eggs among all insects. Carpenter bees are often helpful in pollination but are known for a type of “robbing” behavior that allows them to access the nectar without making contact with the anthers, bypassing pollination. In some plants, this reduces fruit and seed production, while others have developed defense mechanisms against nectar robbing. 

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