Some people do not know the difference between a wasp and a bee. This can, perhaps, be explained by the fact that these two share several visual characteristics. It is, however, essential to know how to tell them apart since they require different pests control methods. The following are the different types of bees and wasps found in Canada.

1. Honey Bees

The size of a honey bee ranges from 10-20 mm. Its colour can be described as golden brown. It is usually smaller compared to a bumble bee. A honey bee has a hairy body and flat hind legs to assist in collecting and transporting pollen. Honey bees are considered important pollinators. They can be described as social insects since they live together in hives or colonies. One hive can contain up to 80,000 honey bees. Although they can be seen throughout the year, they are usually more active during the summer.

During winter, they gather inside their hives to generate heat and keep the hive warm. Honeybees attack only when under threat. A honey bee can only sting once. This is because its barbed stinger gets stuck inside the skin of the victim, detaching itself from the bee as it flees.

2. Bumble Bees

Bumblebees are large-bodied bees with a fat furry look. They are twice as big as regular honey bees. They range in length from 2.5 to 4 cm. They have a black hairy body but can sometimes feature yellow or orange stripes. The 250 known species of bumblebees are native to North America.

Twenty of these are found in Canada. Like honey bees, bumble bees aid the agricultural sector by pollinating a variety of plants and crops, although not on large farms because, unlike honey bees, they usually live in small colonies. They live in nests that mostly contain 15-100 bees.

Bumblebees like to form their nests underground, especially where they can find abandoned mice nests; but in some cases, they can be found above the ground, mostly around decks or patios. Bumblebees are seasonal in the sense that during the winter season, only the queen bee survives. The rest die during the autumn season. However, as soon as its springtime, the queen bee starts a new colony.

Unlike honey bees, bumble bees are very aggressive when defending their nest. They are known to chase anyone or anything that invades their nest. A bumble bee has one of the most painful stings, and it can sting more than once without losing its stinger.

3. Carpenter Bees

A carpenter bee usually ranges between 12.5mm to 25mm. It’s typically black, smooth and shiny and features a metallic green or blue sheen. Due to its size, it’s easy to mistake it for a bumblebee. There are over 300 species of carpenter bees in the world, and at least 20 of these have habitats in Canada.

Carpenter bees have a life span of three years. They can be very destructive since they are known to burrow into wood, leaving holes that can, in some cases, fit a penny. Carpenter bees prefer unpainted wood, weathered wood, or softwoods such as pine, cypress, cedar or redwood. They can bore holes into a wooden structure to the extent of making it unstable to the point of collapsing.

4. Yellow Jackets

A yellow jacket is a type of wasp that is easily mistaken for a honey bee due to its size (around 10-20 mm). What sets it apart is its shiny black body that features a yellow pattern that is comparably brighter than that of a honey bee. Like most other wasps, yellow jackets are both carnivores and cannibals. They prefer to live underground, and a single colony can have up to 5000 wasps. This type of wasp can be described as territorial and are very aggressive when defending their home.

5. Hornets

This wasp can grow to a length of 3 to 5 cm, and their colour is similar to that of a yellow jacket, the only difference being that hornets are larger. Hornet wasps are either black or white. They are beneficial to gardeners in that they are natural predators of smaller insects that often damage plants.

During winter, only the queen survives. Although hornets are not as aggressive as yellow jackets, they do not appreciate any disturbance, and their sting is one of the most painful.

6. Paper Wasps

This type of wasp is medium in size, approximately 2.5 to 3.5 cm. They have a small, long head and a slender body. They are primarily black with a few yellow or rusty brown stripes and orange antennae. They derive their name from the fact that they build their nest using a gray paper-like material. Paper wasps live in small colonies of 5 to 30. They only attack when threatened.

As you attempt to identify the different bees and wasps in your area, remember that their sting could be excruciating.

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