The difference between honey bees and wasps

The Difference Between Honey Bees and Wasps

September 19, 2016

Summer and fall months bring us an abundance of wonderful things, such as pool days, flowers, grilling, football season and more. But what many of us forget about are the abundance of wasps and bees that tend to make their way onto our property throughout these months. Though both wasps and bees are relatively harmless unless provoked, it is good to know the difference between the two.

Now, are you ready to test your knowledge and see if you really know the difference between wasps and bees? Give it a shot below!

The Difference Between Honey Bees and Wasps

Honey Bees

Honey Bee Appearance

Honey bees are oval shaped, typically about 1.5 cm long and are usually light brown in color with yellow and brown bands around their bodies. Though honey bee appearance does differ from species to species - most honey bees will have dark to light patterns on their body.

Learn more about Bees in our Pest Library!

Honey Bee Behavior & Diet

When in the wild, honey bees choose to build their hives in tree holes or on rock crevices. Honey bee hives are made from wax that comes from the honey bee workers. These workers take the wax from their abdomen and chew it until the wax becomes soft. Then the workers mold the wax and begin to form the hive.

Since they are social creatures, honey bees choose to live in colonies. Though honey bees are essentially harmless, it is important to remove them from your property if their hive gets too close to your home. If left undisturbed, honey bee colonies can reach numbers in the thousands.

To produce their honey, honey bees will consume nectar and pollen from a wide variety of flowers. Honey bees are drawn to fields or gardens that have an abundance of flowers. Once they find and consume the nectar, they will begin to convert it to honey.

Honey Bee Facts

  • The light and dark stripes on honey bees pose as more than just a colorful addition - these stripes are actually used for survival. The bright colors warn other predators of the honey bee's ability to sting.
  • Honey bees do not hibernate throughout the winter months. These pests huddle within their nests and feed on the food supply they have stored.
  • Since honey bees are pollinators, they are critical to the environment and food supply.


Wasp Appearance

Though there are a wide variety of wasp species, the majority of wasps have a pinched waist and two wings. These pests tend to range in color from metallic blues to greens and vary in size. Some are microscopic whereas others can grow to be centimeters long.

Learn more about Iowa Wasps in our Pest Library!

Wasp Behavior and Diet 

Wasp nest style depend on the species of wasp. Some choose to set up their nests hanging from trees, others may occupy old nests, while some may build in wall cavities or in the ground. Wasps are considered both social and solitary pests. Just like honey bees, wasps can live in colonies with numbers that can grow into the thousands. However, these colonies do not typically grow to be as large as honey bee hives. As for the solitary wasps, they do not associate with a colony. Though they are solitary, they are able to lay eggs. Solitary wasp varieties then leave these eggs alone to hatch. 

Though some wasps are predatory, others are parasitic. Parasitic wasps are known for laying their eggs within the bodies of living creatures such as spiders or caterpillars. As for the predatory wasps, these species kill and consume other insects and animals and use this same food source to feed their larvae.

Wasp Facts 

  • Though most feel fear when spotting a wasp, they are actually good for the environment and are important pollinators. 
  • Unlike honey bees, when threatened wasps are able to sting a few times. 
  • Throughout the late summer months, the queen of a variety of species of wasps will produce unfertilized eggs that will develop into males. These males will then fertilize the wasps that are set to become the queens the next year. 

Des Moines Pest Control 

Are you spotting either of these pests around your Des Moines property? Our technicians can help! When it comes to wasp or honey bee nests, it is extremely important that you call a pest professional to remove them safely

Have questions or need to make an appointment? Feel free to give us a call at (515) 276-7277 or schedule an appointment online!