Bzz bzz, who’s that stinging insect?
When we see a yellow and black insect flying around us, we are often scared it is going to sting. We seldom take the time to identify whether it is a bee, a wasp or a bumblebee. But if we look closely, there are actually a couple of differences, in the way they look and in the way they behave.
Bumblebees are rather chubby and hairy. Bees are hairy as well but thinner. Wasps have a very small waist and no hair. The colors on the wasp are also a lot brighter. The three insects form colonies, with a queen, workers and males. Bumblebees live in already existing cavities, like an abandoned burrow. Bees live in a manmade hive or can live in a hollow tree. Wasps build paper nest suspended in trees or on houses or the dig a nest in the earth.
Their diet is also different. Bees and bumblebees are pollinators and go from flower to flower in order to collect nectar and pollen. That is one of the reasons they are hairy, whereas the wasp is not, since it eats insects.
Finally, bumblebees and wasps can sting repeatedly, while the bees can only sting a mammal once. The difference is in the sting. Wasps and bumblebees have a smooth sting and bees have a sting that looks like a fir tree, so when it tries to get away after stinging, most of its abdomen stays behind, which kills the bee. So bees will only sting as a last resort, in order to protect the hive. Bumblebees have a calm temper, so they rarely sting. Wasps, that sting to eat, do not hesitate to sting, especially if they feel threatened.
Author: Stéphanie Bentz, Biologist and Guide Coordinator
Bioparc de la Gaspésie
Photo : Stéphanie Bentz