You’re outside on the porch, enjoying a cup of coffee when you hear the lazy drone of a flying insect nearby. You might think nothing of it, maybe absentmindedly swat at it before you feel that hot, stinging, and likely familiar pain.
In 2001 to 2010, an estimated 10.1 million Americans visited emergency departments for non-canine bite
and sting injuries, and that doesn’t account for everyone that just stayed at home while their faces were
red and swollen!
As you take one last look at the culprit merrily buzzing away, you might wonder – was it a bee, or a
Let’s take a look at some of the key differences between the two.
If you were stung more than once, it was likely a wasp. Female bees can sting only once (male bees
don’t), as it is ultimately fatal for them when their stinger gets ripped from their bodies and left in ours –
but wasps can sting multiple times to their hearts content, and they’re also by far the more aggressive
creatures, often chasing their prey for hundreds of yards.
While both are territorial, and while bees do sting when provoked, they tend to focus on flowers and
not on people peacefully sipping coffee on their porch.
Both bees and wasps belong to the insect order Hymenoptera. There are more than 100,000 species of
wasps, including the common yellow jacket wasp that can be found in Arizona. They have yellow and
black stripes, and are often mistaken for honey bees. In fact, most experts think that people coming in
to complain about a honey bee sting, were in fact bitten by a yellow jacket.
While both insects are yellow with black markings, wasps are shinier, have a brighter yellow color, and
thinner waist. They have smoother bodies, while bees are hairier. They also have rounder legs versus
the flatter legs honey bees have.
As for their nests, wasps have no wax-producing glands so instead they create nests that are a paper-like
substance from wood pulp. Bees on the other hand build their hives in cavities that are protected from
the elements, like hollow walls, trees or attics.
When honey bees build their nests in your home, the damage done isn’t usually structural – however,
when they do leave to find a new home, the honey and wax comb left behind will ruin drywall,
insulation and sliding, so it’s always best to ask an expert.
While most people know bees are essential to the environment, not all wasps are bad – wasps can act as
a natural pest control, preying on crop-killing insects.
So if you find what you think are honey bees or wasps on your porch, make sure you have an expert
come by and take a look — so you can sip your coffee in peace.