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How to Tell the Difference Between a Bee and a Wasp

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How to Tell the Difference Between a Bee and a Wasp

A bee has a rounded, hairy body.

Photo: © Susan Ellis, Bugwood.org

Bees and wasps all belong to the order Hymenoptera. They are also members of the suborder Apocrita, characterized by a common narrow waist. This waist is really a thin junction between the thorax and the abdomen, giving these insects a waist-like appearance.

Bees and wasps have other characteristics in common as well. They both have larvae which look like maggots, and have modified ovipositors which they use to sting and inject venom.

But where do the similiarities end? There are a few significant differences between bees and wasps. Refer to the table below to learn to what they are:

Differences Between Bees and Wasps

CharacteristicBeeBothWasp
Stingerhoneybee workers: stinger is pulled from bee’s abdomen and bee dies
other bees: live to sting again
have backward-pointed barbs on stinger to penetrate victimsmall barbs; stinger can be removed from victim; wasp lives to sting again
Bodyrounder body, usually appears hairynarrow junction between thorax and abdomenusually slender and smooth
Legshairyno significant similaritiesfew hairs
Foodfeed on pollen and nectarno significant similaritiespredators or parasites of other insects, or scavengers
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