Thursday, September 1, 2011


I was reading a blog recently where the author posted a picture of a wasp and called it a bee which is the reason for this post.

I'm not blogging to make fun of anyone who confuses a bee with a wasp. Actually, I didn't even know there was a difference until I took a class with my daughter at our local nature center back in 1998. Up until then, anything that was black and yellow with a stinger was a bee to me. We took the class because I had a major phobia of bees but the nature center taught us that not all stinging insects are created equal nor are they all bees.

This is purely an educational post. Hopefully it will help people identify these insects when they come in contact with them and help them be less fearful of bees.

I will cover the ones most commonly seen in Minnesota. Other states may have different types of wasps or bees, I'm not sure.


Benefits: Wasps eat all kinds of insects and are great to have in the garden because they often eat the insects that are harmful to your fruits and vegetables.

Temperament: Paper Wasps tend not to be too aggressive unless their nests are disturbed. Yellowjackets get defensive if their hives are disturbed, when they are around food, or during certain parts of the season when food is scarce. Hornets are aggressive when nests are disturbed.

Body: Have a slender body, narrow waste, appear shiny with smooth skin. Slender, cylindrical legs. Wasps are the stinging insects most commonly encountered by people.

Food: Wasps are predators. They eat other insects. They will eat fruit juices as well. Hornets will forage for nectar.

Nests: Yellowjackets, baldfaced hornets, and paper wasps make nests from a papery pulp comprised of chewed-up wood fibers mixed with saliva. Yellowjackets commonly build nests underground and paper wasps will build there nests from overhangs such as a tree limb.

Hornets Nest looks like this:

courtesy of Peregrine Audubon

Yellowjacket Nest looks like this:

courtesy of Local Pest Control

Paper Wasp Nest looks like this:

courtesy of Ace Bees

What do they look like?

The Yellow Jacket

courtesty of The Bee Hunter

The Paper Wasp

courtesy of Snails Tales

The Hornet

courtesy of FCPS



Temperament: Honeybees are docile unless hive is disturbed. When out foraging they rarely sting. Mason bees will not sting unless strongly provoked. Bumble bees are defensive of their hive but more docile when out foraging unless stepped on or squeezed.

Body: Bees have robust bodies and are very hairy. Hind legs are flattened for collecting and transporting pollen.

Food: Bees feed on pollen & nectar from flowers.

Nests: Honey bees make a series of vertical honey combs made of wax. Their colonies are mostly in manufactured hives but they do occasionally nest in cavities in large trees, voids in building walls, or other protected areas.

Courtesy of bees on the net

Bumble bees use old mice burrows, cavities in buildings, and other locations to make their nests. Like honey bees, bumble bees make cells of wax.

Courtesy of Extermatrim

Mason bees (The female) uses existing holes in wood for a nest, the whole will be slightly larger than her body (1/8 of inch) and she puts a mud plug in one of the hole.

Courtesy of Help Save the Bees

What they look like?

Honey Bee

courtesy of NC Pedia

Mason Bee

courtesy of Gig Harbor

Bumble Bee

courtesy of Organic Garden Info.

Much of the information listed above came from the University of Minnesota.