Here are a few useful features to help distinguish between several common varieties of bee and wasp.
|Honeybee||Bumblebee||Yellowjacket||Paper wasp||Baldfaced hornet|
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|color||varies but generally yellow to brown stripes||yellow with black stripes, sometimes with red tail, to dark||black and bright yellow stripes||dusty yellow to dark brown or black||black and ivory white markings|
|coat||furry (short hair)||furry (long hair)||smooth|
|size||1.3 cm (1/2 inch)||2.5 cm (1 inch) or more||1.3 cm (1/2 inch)||1.9–2.5 cm (3/4 to 1 inch)||up to 1.9 cm (3/4 inch)|
|legs||not generally visible while flying†||two long legs are visible hanging down during flight. no pollen baskets||long. no pollen baskets|
|behavior||gentle, unless hive or queen is threatened ‡||gentle||aggressive|
|Preferred food||nectar from flowers||other insects, overripe fruit, sugary drinks, human food and food waste||other insects|
|after stinging||bee dies||can sting repeatedly|
|Lives in||large colonies of flat wax-based honeycomb hanging vertically||small cavities in the soil||small umbrella-shaped papery combs hanging horizontally in protected spaces such as attics, eaves or soil cavities||large paper nest shaped like an upside-down pear usually hanging from branches or eaves|
† When walking, you can often see light-colored pollen on the pollen baskets on a honeybee's rear legs.
‡ There are several races of domesticated honeybees with varying characteristics of honey production, disease resistance and gentleness.
Since the honeybee will die after stinging, there is no advantage for a bee to sting to defend itself.
Honeybees will generally only sting when the hive is directly threatened.
Honeybees found in the field or on a flower will rarely sting.
Note: Africanized honeybees can be more aggressive than the more common European honeybees, but still only defend the hive.
See also: wasps