Since I started beekeeping, this has turned into one of my biggest pet peeves.
And I'm going to be honest; before I knew anything about bees, I was the same as everyone else.
"These bees are swarming our barbeque" or "There's a bee on my pop can"
Since it is becoming wasp season, we are seeing more and more of these vicious little guys. Especially in the summer heat, I can almost guarantee the "bees" bothering your picnic or BBQ are most definitely wasps, and here's why.
First off let's start by identifying a wasp vs. a bee appearance wise:
There are a couple major differences right off the bat, mainly color. The honey bee is a soft yellow and dark brown stripe whereas the wasp is almost a neon yellow and black pattern.
The other main difference is the body shape. Wasps are lean and have quite a narrow midsection. They also have an identifying feature of long legs that hang when they fly. Honey bees are a little bit more plump, and they also have noticeable fuzz on them.
So if you see a bee flying around with long, hanging, neon yellow legs, it's probably a wasp.
Another easy way to distinguish between the both is where they hang out.
Honey bees only eat two things: nectar and pollen. Both of these are found in flowers so they are almost always in a garden or field where there is an abundance of bloom. If you have a garden in your backyard, chances are some honey bees have visited.
Wasps are carnivorous. Preying on other insects such as spider, ants and even bees, both for themselves and to bring back to the nest for their larvae. Any protein counts, including that steak on the barbecue. They are also attracted to sugar. To satisfy their sweet tooth, they look to anything sugary they can find, such as your can of pop you have sitting outside.
One of the most important differences is their stings!
Honey bees can only sting in self-defense once and then they die. Their stinger is barbed and gets pulled out when it attaches to their victim, pulling along their insides as well.
Wasps, on the other hand, are more aggressive and freely sting one victim multiple times before flying away. The only time they die from stinging is if they get squashed in the process.
Now that I know these differences, I can easily tell if it is truly a "bee" bothering us or a pesky wasp.
And it's starting to become a bit annoying when someone tries to swat at the "bee" buzzing around them at a picnic and all I want to do is tell them "It's actually a wasp...". I think feeling this way means I am slowing turning into a true beek.