Often just called ‘bees’, wasps and hornets are actually the larger group, and bees are a specialized type of wasp
Like bees, wasps and hornets have the following characteristics:
- two sets of wings
- the females sting
- three body segments
- three pairs of legs
- compound eyes in addition to simple eyes
Unlike bees, they:
- neither have ‘hairy’ bodies nor legs
- can sting multiple times (in stinging varieties)
- are parasitical or predatorial – they feed on other insects, their larvae or dead organic matter, rather than pollen and nectar
As was seen in the overview of Order, Hymenoptera, bees are concentrated in the Superfamily, Apoidea. Wasps, on the other hand, can be found within several ranks falling under Suborder Apocrita, indicating that there is a great deal more variety in wasps’ biological characteristics, than in bees’. Indeed, they share categories with ants, sawflies and bees, in addition to having full ranks to themselves. Bees are just a specialized type of wasp that has evolved over time. This page is devoted to wasps and hornets.
A rough comparison of wasp (left) and bee (right) classifications is:
The following table is set up similarly to that found on the page for bee identification. For a nice discussion of members of infra-order Parasitica, I recommend the following site, the larger focus of which is hedges and hedgerows in the UK and Ireland. Note that all thumbnail photos can be clicked for enlargements. Some of these photos will open in a new window.