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Wasps and bees are largely lumped into the same category: scary bugs that fly around and sting you. But these flying insects aren't all bad! Bees are very important pollinators, and wasps help control various insect pests. Knowing the difference between these two types of insects can help identify which ones may sting you, what their nests look like, and where you might see them and what to do if they're around your home and garden. There are hundreds of species, so this is a general guide.
Bees descended from wasps, so they are fairly similar. "Wasps" encompass both yellowjackets and hornets
BOTH: Vary in color - can range from black, black and white, black and yellow, brown, etc. Color should not be a sole identifier when distinguishing between bees and wasps. Yellowjackets are often confused with bees because of their striped yellow and black appearance and stouter bodies.
The biggest difference in habitats for both bees and wasps lies in if they are social or solitary. Social bees have colonies and create hives, or nests, above ground. Solitary bees or wasps create nests (without colonies) in the ground, abandoned rodent burrows, and sometimes in wall voids or wood.
Wasps mainly eat insects (dead or living) and some species scavenge even garbage or rotting fruit. Sometimes they do eat pollen, but this is not a main food source.
Bees are pollinators and feed on nectar and pollen.
Neither wasps or bees are generally aggressive. They will usually sting if they are being closely handled against the skin, stepped on, or defending their colonies or nests. Some bees, like sweat bees, have very mild stings, and males of some bee species may appear aggressive, but are unable to sting. Honeybees can only sting once, and their stingers are barbed and remain in the skin (with a venom sac attached). Bumble bees and all wasps can sting multiple times, and their stingers do not detach and embed in skin. See our bee sting treatment page for more information.