6 Key Differences Between Bees and Wasps

Use this handy guide to know whether it's a bee or wasp buzzing through your backyard.

paper waspShutterstock/irin-k
Paper wasp

Identifying Bees and Wasps

Wasps have slim bodies and narrow waists that connect thorax and abdomen. Bees have thick, rounded bodies with stripes. Check out more fascinating bumblebee facts, and learn how you can host mason bees with a bee house.

Look at the Wing Position

Two sets of wasp wings run parallel to the abdomen when folded down. Bees’ two sets of wings rest on top of the thorax (middle part of the body) when folded down. These are the top 10 plants for bees and other pollinators.

How Many Legs Do Bees Have?

Wasps have six long, skinny legs with several spines. Bees have six short, bulky legs that are flat, not rounded. Learn how to tell the difference between bees and flies.

Do Bees Die When They Sting?

The stinger stays with the wasp, meaning it can sting several times. A honeybee stinger stays in the victim, meaning the bee eventually dies. Other bees can sting multiple times. Discover 5 easy ways to help the bees.

Do Wasps Pollinate Plants?

Bees have pollen-collecting hair on their bodies, and females also have hair on their legs and bellies. But both bees and wasps are pollinators that will visit backyard blooms to sip on sweet nectar. Psst—try these natural ways to keep bees and ants away from hummingbird feeders.

What Do Bees and Wasps Eat?

Bees often get blamed for the aggressive and annoying tactics of wasps. As strict nectar and pollen eaters, bees spend most of their time foraging at flowers—and on their best behavior. Wasps are predators that are always on the hunt for their next meal, whether its insects or the food at your barbecue. Learn about 5 beneficial bees you want in your garden.

These bee photos are un-bee-lievably cute!

Kirsten Schrader
Kirsten has more than 15 years of experience writing and editing birding and gardening content. As content director of Birds & Blooms, she leads the team of editors and freelance writers sharing tried-and-true advice for nature enthusiasts who love to garden and feed birds in their backyards. Since joining Birds & Blooms 17 years ago, Kirsten has held roles in digital and print, editing direct-to-consumer books, running as many as five magazines at a time, and managing special interest publications. Kirsten has traveled to see amazing North American birds and attended various festivals, including the Sedona Hummingbird Festival, the Rio Grande Bird Festival, The Biggest Week in American Birding Festival, and the Cape May Spring Festival. She has also witnessed the epic sandhill crane migration while on a photography workshop trip to Colorado. Kirsten has participated in several GardenComm and Outdoor Writers Association of America annual conferences and is a member of the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology. When she's not researching, writing, and editing all things birding and gardening, Kirsten is enjoying the outdoors with her nature-loving family. She and her husband are slowly chipping away at making their small acreage the backyard of their dreams.