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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 How to Tell the Difference Between a Bee and a Wasp

A wasp has a slender, smooth body.

Photo: © Whitney Cranshaw, Colorado State University, 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

Characteristic Bee Both Wasp
Stinger honeybee 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 victim small barbs; stinger can be removed from victim; wasp lives to sting again
Body rounder body, usually appears hairy narrow junction between thorax and abdomen usually slender and smooth
Legs hairy no significant similarities few hairs
Food feed on pollen and nectar no significant similarities predators or parasites of other insects, or scavengers
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