Bees and wasps are generally considered to be beneficial insects. However, because of their ability to sting, they are also considered as pests. They can become quite a nuisance in autumn when they are most likely to cause disruption among outdoor activities.
It is quite a common mistake to refer to all stinging insects as bees. They both live in colonies that are ruled by queens and maintained by workers but they tend to behave differently. It is important to be able to tell them apart because there are different ways of controlling them if they become a problem.
Bees look very robust and are very hairy compared to wasps. They have flat hind legs, which they use for collecting and transporting pollen. Wasps have a slender body with a narrow waist. They have cylindrical legs that appear smooth and shiny.
Bees feed on nectar and pollen from flowering plants. Sometimes they can be seen in trash bins feeding on sugary substances like soft drink cans. Wasps on the other hand are known predators. They feed other smaller insects to their young. Some of them become aggressive scavengers around human food and can be seen where food and drinks are served outdoors.
Bumblebees and wasps have something in common: they live in annual colonies, meaning they only live for a year. Their colonies die in autumn and only the new queens survive to start a new colony. Colonies do not reuse old nests so the new queens need to find favorable new nesting sites to rebuild new nests.
Honeybees on the other hand can survive for more than a year. They consume honey and generate heat, allowing them to survive in their nest even when the temperature drops. As long as they have honey, some colonies are able to survive for longer periods of time even in lower temperatures.
Both bees and wasps sting to defend their colonies. Wasps and bumblebees can sting more than once without causing injury to them. Honey bees’ stingers are attached to their digestive system. This usually gets torn when the bee tries to fly away after stinging, and as a result they die. If you get stung, scratch it out with your fingernail immediately. Do not attempt to squeeze it out using two fingers because this will only cause more venom to spread.
People have different reactions to getting stung, ranging from mild and local reactions to serious allergic, sometimes even life-threatening reactions. Always be careful when staying outdoors and know if you have any allergies.