Bees vs Wasps vs Hornets: What's the Difference?

Bees, wasps, and hornets are all known for their painful stings that can lead to allergic reactions in some cases.

To the untrained eye it can appear that they are basically the same creature.

Why do we have different names for creatures that appear so similar? They are not the same. 

In today’s post we are sharing with you the difference between bees, wasps, and hornets.

Our video version of this post has some great bee/wasp footage, which you can watch by clicking HERE now.

Feel free to also download the podcast above!

Classification of Insects

According to our classification of all wild creatures, both bees and wasps belong to the same Order of Hymenoptera. This Order also includes insects such as ants which are relatively similar to bees and wasps.

What makes bees and wasps different have to do with their appearance, behavior, and body functions.


The easiest way to distinguish whether you’re dealing with a bee or a wasp is the least desired option, but will quickly reveal their true nature.

Bees can only sting once whereas a wasp or hornet can sting multiple times. If the bee stings you and it dies or disappears, it likely means you were dealing with a bee.

Wasps and hornets are more of a problem because they can and will sting you or bite you over and over.


A more desired option to differentiate from bees is to pay close attention to the creature’s appearance.

The two most common types of bees are Manitoba and honeybees. They are fuzzy, flying insects with yellow and black stripes. Bees often appear plump.

On the other hand wasps and hornets typically appear slimmer, and not so fuzzy. They have a slender body that narrows at the waist area. They appear shinier.

One way to distinguish between bees and wasps or hornets is whether they almost look like a mini stuffed animal. The bee’s fuzziness and plumpness almost makes it look like a mini stuffed animal, whereas the hornet and wasp look more like killer-machines.


Bees are typically the smallest of all the creatures with the smallest length being around .08 inches and the largest bee species being about 1.54 inches long.  Wasps are typically a small one third inch and can be around the same size as some bees, and hornets are the largest of the bunch.


Another way you can distinguish between bees or wasps and hornets is how they are feeding.

Bees collect pollen and nectar as their primary source of food so you can see them hanging around plants and especially flowers.

Hornets and wasps are general scavengers feeding on other insects, or in some cases hornets will outright hunt other insect’s larvae.

Cold weather

Wasps and hornets have a lot of similarities, though there is one difference between the two.

Hornets are more likely to be out in cooler times such as late autumn. This is the time when bees and wasps must begin slowing down and preparing for winter or dying off, whereas hornets will still be out scavenging for the remains of other insects or searching for sweet things to eat such as our pop and soda.

Some species of hornets will outright hunt the larvae of other insects, and go on wild killing sprees.


It can be difficult to differentiate between wasps & hornets as they tend to be more similar, but being able to tell the difference between bees and wasps will be easier.

Whether you’re dealing with a bee, wasp, hornet, other insect or animal problem, you shouldn’t have to. Give us a call at 855-WILDLIFE or visit and we’ll be sure to handle the problem for you!


-Wildlife x Team International


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