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What Is the Difference Between Bees and Wasps?

Both bees and wasps are members of the insect order hymenoptera, which includes the ants. In many ways they are alike, but there are several big differences.

Wasps, in general, are slimmer, more brightly-colored, and less hairy than bees. They can sting repeatedly, whereas the worker bee can only sting once. A bee's sting is barbed, and in withdrawing it the bee hurts itself so badly that it dies.

Bees make their nests of wax, and make honey to feed the little grubs. Wasps make their nests of paper and mud, feed their young on chewed-up insects or fruit, and do not make honey.

Bees are vegetarians. Many wasps are meat-eaters, killing spiders, flies and caterpillars.

Some bees are solitary, building a nest by themselves, and rearing their young alone; other bees are social creatures and many thousands will share a nest or a hive. Wasps are divided, too, into solitary and social classes. The difference here is that the queen bee survives the winter in the nest with worker bees to look after her and to help her with the work of building and egg-laying in spring. The queen wasp, on the other hand, is the only one to survive the winter, and she has to build a new nest, lay her eggs and rear her young all by herself, until the youngsters grow big enough to take over some of the work.

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