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Bees vs Wasps vs Hornets… (14 Different Pictures)

These four insects are all similar to one another and tend to confuse people.

If anyone sees a yellow and black insect flying around their yard, it's likely to be a member of this quartet.

The guide specifically reviews the similarities and differences between bees, wasps, hornets, and yellow jackets.


bees vs wasps vs hornets vs yellowjackets

What Are Bees?

Most people imagine a bumble bee or honey bee when they hear the term "bee," but the word actually has a much broader meaning.

A bee is any member of the scientific Apidae family, which includes bugs that fly and collect nectar and pollen. Not all of them sting, but many of them do, so people should be careful around them.


Bees share many traits with other bugs. They possess strong exoskeletons that protect their fragile bodies. They have three body segments, including the head, abdomen, and thorax. Because bees count as insects, they have three pairs of legs. Most will also have two pairs of wings and round, almost fluffy bodies.

Will They Sting You?

Most bees can sting, but tend to avoid humans as much as possible. This bee's stinger is barbed, and the bee cannot remove it from its enemy's flesh once it has stung. When the bee tries to fly away, it unfortunately leaves behind part of its abdomen and digestive tract. The bee dies shortly afterwards.

Honey Bee Vs Bumble Bee

Honey bees do have stingers and their bodies with have black and brown stripes which gradually get darker closer to the stinger. They also have two eyes, a pair of antennae, and strong mandibles on the front of their mouths.

Surprisingly honey bees and bumble bees are quite different.

Bumble bees are much larger and more fuzzy. They live in colonies similar to honey bees, but they usually have smaller nest sizes. The nests that they do create are underground whereas honey bees nest in trees.

honey bee vs bumble bee

Queen Bee Vs Drone (Male Bee)

Queen bees are very distinctly longer than any other bee in the colony. Their abdomen is elongated out past their wings.

Queen bees have one job... make more bees. 

A single queen bee can lay up to 2,000 eggs each day and have a life cycle of about 2-3 years until a new queen comes in and continues production.

Drones on the other hand are male bees and are pretty much useless around the hive as their only function is to fertilize young queen bees. Worker bees (aka female bees) do most of the work collecting nectar and pollen, which they turn into honey.

drone bee vs queen bee

Carpenter Bee Vs Bumblebee

A carpenter bee nests in wood structures to lay eggs and has a shiny back surface as illustrated in the picture below. In contrast, a bumble bee nests in the ground and has a fury body with yellow markings.

Read Also: What's the best carpenter bee trap?

carpenter bee vs bumble bee

What Is a Wasp?

There are over 30,000 different wasps in the world, each capable of stinging more than once. They come in a broad range of colors, including the familiar yellow and black but also unusual hues like blue and red. They live in paper nests which clearly distinguish them from honey bees.

paper wasp up close

Anatomy of a Wasp

The typical wasp has three body segments, three pairs of legs, and a stinger they use to defend themselves and attack other bugs. Most seen in the United States have yellow and black stripes down their abdomen. Their bodies are long and thin, and they possess strong mandibles used to gather wood fibers to make their homes.

Will They Sting You?

Wasps do sting and are considered aggressive when they believe their home is threatened. A wasp can sting multiple times without repercussion, and some people react poorly to their venom.

Bees Vs Wasps

Bees are very different from wasps. The wasp, unlike the bee, is a predator and can sting multiple times without injury. Bees are squatter and fatter, hang out around flowers, and are non-aggressive. They live in sticky geometric hives.

bee vs wasp

The main differences between bees and wasps are as follows:

  • Bees are more short and fat
  • Bees are relatively non-aggressive
  • Bees have a black butt and yellow torso
  • Bees have stubby legs
  • Bees tend to have a thicker heads than a wasps

Read Also: What's the best spray kill wasps?

What Is a Hornet?

Hornets build communal nests by chewing up wood into a papery pulp. They are extremely aggressive and do not like when humans or animals disturb their homes. Unlike some other insects, the hornet can release a hormone to alert other insects in the nest to danger.

hornet up close

Anatomy of Hornet

Hornets look a lot like wasps because they have thin, elongated bodies. They tend to have white and black horizontal stripes around their bodies and eat other insects. Hornets do not have hair on their bodies but do have three segments, three pairs of legs, and a pair of antennae. 

Will They Sting You?

Hornets will sting you with no qualms. Unlike bees, they can sting multiple times and alert other hornets to attack an intruder. As said, they are aggressive and don't like people.

Read Also: How to treat wasp and hornet stings?

Bees Vs Hornets

The differences between bees and hornets are similar to those between bees and wasps. In short:

  • Bees are smaller
  • Bees have hairier bodies
  • Hornets have large mandibles
  • Hornets will eat other bugs and human food
  • Hornets are aggressive
  • Hornets sting more than once
bee vs hornet

What Is a Yellow Jacket?

Yellow jackets are a type of wasp found around the United States. They are the most aggressive out of all of the insects on this list.

Anatomy of a Yellow Jacket

Like the other three bugs, the yellow jacket is an insect with three body segments, three pairs of legs, and a pair of antennae. Their antennae turn down around their face, and the yellow jacket has a very distinct  bright yellow and black pattern on its body. They do not have any hair on them.

Will They Sting You?

Yes. Do not approach yellow jackets. These insects do not like humans or animals coming near them and are the most likely to injure a person.

Bees Vs Yellow Jackets

Yellow jackets are similar to hornets, so they are not like the bee at all. Yellow jackets:

  • Are wasps which can sting multiple types
  • Have a more distinctive yellow color
  • Have long, thin bodies
  • Are aggressive
  • Live in paper nests
  • Frequently nest on the ground
bee vs yellow jacket

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