Apidae versus Vespidae?

Do you find yourself confused when it comes to differentiating between common types of bees, wasps, and other types of black and yellow-colored social insects? Fear not, for we have provided a handy guide to help you!

To start,



A lot sets honeybees apart from bees and wasps, such as the facts that:

  • They are pollinators.
  • They create hives by secreting wax and storing brood and nectar in hexagonal cells.
  • Honeybees produce honey, of course!
  • They are social to the extent that their colonies have thousands of bees and can be considered a “superorganism.”
  • Male honeybees, or drones, cannot sting, although the female bees (workers and queen) can. A queen bee can sting multiple times.
  • Worker bees can only sting once, after which they die, and drones die after mating with the queen. In both cases deaths occur due to the worker’s barbed stinger and drone’s endophallus ripping their abdomens and internal organs, thus effectively killing the bees after their deeds (stinging and mating, respectively) are completed.
  • Honeybees are dying off due to Colony Collapse Disorder, which is thought to be caused by various factors, including pesticide use and Varroa mites.



  • Bumblebees live in smaller colonies than honeybees.
  • They are important and effective pollinators, and have hair and pollen baskets to help them in transportation.
  • Bumblebees are able to “rob nectar” from flowering plant by creating an incision at the base and sucking out the nectar with probosces.
  • They sting very infrequently.
  • They were once thought to defy physics by flying with their plump, furry bodies and wee wings, but their fast wings make it possible!
  • Bumblebee populations are also facing population decline, also likely due to pesticides.


Hornets are a type of wasp, and:

  • They make their nests out of chewed-up wood.
  • Hornets are carnivorous, eating other insects!
  • Their anatomy is not efficient for pollination.
  • Their social nest hierarchy is similar to the honeybees’: they have a queen, drones (who die once mated), and workers.
  • Hornets have venomous stings and can sting more than once, but will not typically sting unless provoked.
  • They can be found nearly all over the world!


Wasp visits an empty super!

Yellowjackets are a type of wasp, and are related to hornets!

  • Yellowjackets also live in nests made of chewed-up wood, but utilize cells in the nest for storage of brood.
  • They are carnivorous and may feed on bees, and do not pollinate.
  • They do not have barbed stingers, so they can sting more than once, and they also have venomous stings.
  • Many insects are black and yellow Batesian mimics of yellowjackets to ensure survival
  • Yellowjackets also can be found all over the world, but are in abundance in the United States

Also, be(e) sure to check out the 2015 Marvel film Ant-Man to see “The Yellowjacket Suit,” an invention that decreases or increases the height of the user, thus affecting their superhero abilities, such as strength!

And finally, beware the…


Tracker Jackers are arguably the most devastating and fear-inducing ‘muttations’, or genetically-altered animals, to exist. They are a type of wasp created by the Capitol. A Tracker Jacker seeks out those who dare disturb its nest in the trees, targeting victims and their innermost fears. Its sting can cause hallucinations, alter memories, and, if stung more than once, even death by venom. They can be calmed with the use of smoke.

Thanks for reading, we hope you learned something new! If you have any ideas for additions to this guide, please comment below. Stay tuned for updates from the GW Apiary, for more exciting news is sure to arrive (i.e., in a few weeks we will be extracting honey)!



*Tracker Jackers are a fictional creation by Suzanne Collins featured in the Hunger Games novels and films.



All photos are my own, unless cited otherwise in the photo’s caption.

Information about bumblebees adapted from: http://www.buzzaboutbees.net/bumblebee.html

Information about hornets adapted from: http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/bugs/hornet/

Information about yellowjackets adapted from: http://naturemappingfoundation.org/natmap/facts/yellow_jacket_712.html

Information about *Tracker Jackers found at: http://thehungergames.wikia.com/wiki/Tracker_jacker

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