Suburban Sweet Apiary

Nature's Sweetener

What is the difference between a honey bee and a wasp/hornet/yellow jacket (“vespid”)?

Of course, there are some similarities.  They all belong to the Hymenoptera order of insects.  They have narrow waists between their thorax and abdomen.  They have two pairs of wings.  The females all have modified egg depositors (ovipositors), which can sting and inject venom.  But that’s where the similarities end.


  • Bees are fuzzy.  Vespids are smooth.
  • Bees are rounder.  Vespids are more slender.
  • Bees build their hives out of wax, usually inside hollow trees. Vespids build exposed, papery nests.
  • Bees eat only nectar and pollen from flowers--humans produce nothing of interest to them.  Vespids are predators and scavengers--they'll congregate around garbage, your food, or they'll eat other insects.
  • A honey bee dies after it stings once, so it's in her best interest not to sting. Vespids can sting repeatedly, which leads to the next difference:
  • Bees tend to be docile, stinging only when squished, stepped on, or otherwise provoked. Vespids are aggressive--they will sting you just for fun.
  • Honey bees are critically important for humans. They pollinate the flowers of fruits and vegetables, helping to insure the continuity of our food supply; and they produce honey.  Vespids have another important function in our ecosystem, and if you figure out what that might be, let me know.


So if you're outdoors, eating a hot dog and drinking beer, minding your own business, and you get stung multiple times by an aggressive, slender, hairless, black-and-yellow insect, then you were stung by a hornet or a yellow jacket.  Please don't blame it on a bee!


Bumble Bee (Bombus spp)

Big fluffy bees, docile, make small nests in the ground

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 Different Types Of Bees

Honey Bee (Apis mellifera)

Smaller, make lots of honey, docile. Hives in tree cavities

Suburban Sweet, Strong Island, New York  2017