Types of Bees, Wasps and Hornets

Updated February 21, 2017

Due to their proclivity for delivering painful stings, bees, wasps and hornets are some of the insects that people most commonly fear and detest. All three insects are very similar, and belong to the Hymenoptera order of animals. However, while bees comprise the Apidae family, wasps and hornets comprise the Vespidae family. There are several different types of these insects throughout the world, all of which have distinctive characteristics.

Honey Bees

Honey bees are some of the most well-known types of bees, and they derive their names from the fact that they collect pollen and nectar in order to produce honey. According to Texas A & M University, the bees can vary in colour but are typically dark brown or black with yellow mixed in. The colours often form banded or striped patterns on their abdomens. Honey bees are highly social and live in cooperative colonies, which feature well-defined caste systems. Each colony has a single queen, which is solely responsible for birthing new bees; drone bees, which are male bees responsible for mating with the queen; and worker bees, which gather food, fight off predators and build and maintain hives. All of the nonproducing females in a colony comprise the worker caste.

Bumble Bees

Bumble bees are another common type of bee, which you can frequently find hovering around flowers. The large, bulbous insects produce loud humming sounds with their wings, and they derive their names from the seemingly awkward way in which they carry, or bumble, their bodies through the air. While similar in colour to honey bees, bumble bees have very different social habits and do not have a caste system. states that the bees live in disorganised nests, such as those consisting of leaves, grass and other light materials, and they may also nest underground.

Yellow Jackets

According to Colorado State University, yellow jackets are wasps in the genus Vespula. They are a social type of wasp, meaning they live in colonies, which they build and abandon each year. Yellow jackets are also a type of paper wasp, which means they construct their nests from a paperlike material consisting of chewed wood pulp. Unlike bees, yellow jackets do not make honey, and they feed primarily on spiders and other insects. Human foods, such as meat and sweet liquids, are also very enticing for yellow jackets.

Bald-Faced Hornets

Unlike the above-mentioned insects, bald-faced hornets do not have any yellow on their bodies, but are instead black and white. They are a type of umbrella wasp, which means they build umbrella like nests that suspend from bushes, trees, other plants and sometimes buildings. specifies that the hornets are particularly aggressive and have venom in their stingers, which can make for an incredibly painful experience.

Cite this Article A tool to create a citation to reference this article Cite this Article

About the Author

Erik Devaney is a writing professional specializing in health and science topics. His work has been featured on various websites. Devaney attended McGill University, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in humanistic studies.