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Is a Yellow Jacket a Bee?

Written by Aptive Environmental June 3, 2022

Yellow jackets and bees have a lot in common when it comes to physical appearance. This can make it difficult to tell them apart, especially when one or the other is buzzing around your head. However, knowing the difference could be useful in encouraging the right bugs and preventing the wrong ones

Similarities between Yellow Jackets and Bees

Like bees, yellow jackets are yellow and black in color, with wings and stingers. Furthermore, both yellow jackets and bees are attracted to sugary foods and sweets. This is why it’s common to see bees and yellow jackets turn up at your family’s picnic or backyard barbecue. Both can act as pollinators.

Differences between Yellow Jackets and Bees

While a sweet fruit salad or ice cream cone may be attractive to both yellow jackets and bees, bees are more interested in pollen and nectar as a food source. Yellow jackets, on the other hand, are predatory omnivores. In addition to sweets, they will eat other insects and even meat. Additionally, yellow jackets are far more aggressive than bees when it comes to appetite and temperament.

While bees may be attracted to your food, they typically do not want to bother you. If provoked or in danger, a bee can use its stinger to sting you. However, a honeybee can only sting once before losing its stinger and dying. Even though bumblebees are capable of stinging you multiple times, a bumblebee would prefer to not bother you as well. Yellow jackets, on the other hand, are much more aggressive. As a result, if you swat at a yellow jacket, it’s bound to become aggravated. Not to mention, yellow jackets can sting you over and over again. To avoid being stung, don’t swat at or squash bees and yellow jackets.

Another difference between bees and yellow jackets is how they protect their nest. Typically, the majority of yellow jackets are ground-nesters, though some may build nests in bushes or in manmade structures. Because yellow jackets build nests near or on the ground, it is easy to stumble upon one unknowingly. When a colony of yellow jackets perceives a threat to their nest, they will swarm and attack. Their instinct to protect their colony is so intense, they have been known to chase after a perceived threat for several yards.

Identifying specific species can often be confusing. For instance, distinguishing a yellow jacket from a carpenter bee involves noting the physical characteristics and behaviors of each. Yellow jackets as noted are a type of wasp and are likely to be found scavenging at outdoor activities . Meanwhile, carpenter bees are generally solitary and known for boring into wood to create nests. Similarly, images of different bees, like honey bees and bumblebees, can illustrate variations in appearance and habitat. Bumblebees, larger and fuzzier, gather pollen to bring back to their nests, whereas yellow jackets, sleek and bright, might be more inclined to pursue your picnic. Understanding these differences is crucial, not only for safety but for the proper management of these insects in nature.

In comparison, nest sites among bee species vary. For example, a queen may establish a colony in a tree, in thick grass, or within a structure. Though bees will defend their colony from potential threats, they aren’t as aggressive as yellow jackets. If you spot a swarm of bees, it is likely because their current nest has become too small for the size of the colony. While a swarm of bees may look scary, bees aren’t typically aggressive at this stage. Their only interest is in finding a new home. As long as you keep your distance from the swarm, there is no need to panic or be alarmed.If you discover yellow jackets or bees in your yard, you should contact an Aptive professional. Taking on bees and yellow jackets yourself is not worth the risk of getting stung. Leave it to a professional and call your local Aptive Environmental branch today.

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