Know Your Stingers
Posted: July 1, 2020
Many bugs have stripes, wings, and stings. Bees and wasps are related, but they’re not the same. Can you tell these common stingers apart?
I’m a western honeybee. I’m golden brown. Check out my legs. The yellow powder shows I’ve been busy doing what I do best: pollinating flowers. Don’t be afraid of me. I’ll sting only if you get too close to my colony.
The carpenter bee is my cousin. People don’t like her much even though she hardly ever stings. She drills holes in houses and lays eggs in the wood. Other bees don’t care for her either. She’s a nectar thief who chews into small flowers before other bee species can get a sip.
My family is huge. Many, many more bee species live in the world . . . around 16,000! Most have black and yellowish coloring. But some sweat bees are green or blue!
I’m a yellow jacket wasp. My legs hang down when I fly. I have just a little bit of hair, and you won’t find me in a garden unless I’ve built a nest nearby. Most wasps won’t pollinate much for you. But most of us will sting you! And our stingers don’t stay behind in our victims, so we can sting again and again. Got a stinging buzzer circling the hotdogs at your picnic? It’s probably a yellow jacket like me. We love meat.
More than 100,000 species of wasps are flying around all over the world. Paper wasps build paper-like, umbrella-shaped nests out of plants and their own spit. Their narrow brown bodies have yellow marks and black wings. Hornets are wasps too, but they have thicker waists. See a bee with white stripes instead of yellow? You’ve probably got a hornet on your hands. Not literally on your hands, we hope. Hornets are dangerous, and it’s best to stay away from them. If you kill just one, pheromones (chemicals that attract others in the same species) are released into the air. Soon the whole hive may come after you!