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What's the Difference Between Bees and Wasps?

Warm temperatures and never-ending days are some of the best things about summer, but the proliferation of biting and stinging pests, like bees and wasps, is a warm-weather bonus we could do without. The jarring sound of these insects buzzing around puts a serious damper on outdoor activities.Bees

The vastly different personalities of bees and wasps means knowing how to distinguish them is critical to staying safe at your next picnic since they require you to take distinct precautions.

How to Distinguish Bees from Wasps

Despite being frequently lumped into the same category, bees and wasps are actually quite different. Once you understand a few of their key characteristics, it’s easy to distinguish bees from wasps, or yellow jackets, as they’re more commonly known.

Body Shape

Their body shape is the simplest way to tell them apart. If you get a little closer—though we’re not advocating getting too close—you’ll notice there are quite a few differences in their body shape.

The most obvious distinction is in the round abdomen, and thorax bees have. Wasps, on the other hand, have a cylinder-shaped body and a narrow waist. Bees’ bodies are covered in fuzz (even their eyes, too), whereas wasps have shiny, smooth skin. They are also more brightly colored than bees.


Bees are much more docile than wasps. They sting only in self-defense, as it’s an act that proves fatal for them. If you’ve ever been stung, it was likely a wasp that stung you. Wasps are highly aggressive, and they will defend themselves if they feel threatened. Wasps will repeatedly sting, as this action is not fatal to them as it is to the bee.

Social Structure and Habits

Both bees and wasps are social insects that live in colonies, though bees live in much larger colonies of around 75,000 members, compared to the 10,000 that reside in a wasp colony.

Bees are well known for producing honey, and they feed on nectar. Wasps aren’t capable of producing honey, but they, too, like nectar. Unlike the vegetarian bee, wasps eat other insects, which you may be surprised to hear include the occasional bee.

Wasps are attracted to human food, especially sugary beverages, so it’s no surprise to find them buzzing around your outdoor meals. Since their presence is most unwelcome, covering sodas or creating a dedicated drink tent is a fantastic way to keep wasps from ruining your next gathering.

Types of Bees and Wasps Common in New Jersey

Besides the garden-variety yellow jacket, bee or wasp, New Jersey is home to an impressive number of related stinging insects. The Northwest New Jersey Beekeepers Association identifies the most common varieties in our state. They include:

  • Bumblebees
  • Bald-faced hornets
  • Red paper wasps
  • European hornets
  • Mud dauber wasps
  • Carpenter bees
  • Eastern cicada killer wasps

Potential Dangers and Health Risks

Being stung by a wasp certainly isn’t pleasant, but these insects pose dangers and health risks beyond their painful pricks.

For those with severe bee allergies, stings necessitate immediate medical attention, and aggressive wasps may repeatedly attack if they feel threatened, which can lead to dire consequences for the allergic individual.

Aggravating a beehive, whether accidentally or on purpose, is another surefire way to trigger an attack by thousands of wasps defending their territory. Elevated numbers of stings can send your body into shock and have potentially fatal consequences.

While the thought of these scenarios is enough to send shivers down anyone’s spine, the good news is that these situations are uncommon and can be avoided with a bit of caution and common sense.

How to Treat Bee and Wasp Infestations

Bee and wasp visits are ubiquitous in the summertime, especially if there are food and soda present. While there’s no reason we can’t coexist with these insects, it’s a different story when bees and wasps set up hives on your property.

If you spot a hive in or near your house, it’s best to let the professionals at Dial Environmental handle the infestation. Besides being incredibly unsafe, DIY pest control is ineffective at best, which is why you should take advantage of our pest control solutions. Contact us today to set up an appointment.

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