By Carol Coogan
“The words “bee,” “wasp” and “hornet” are often used interchangeably as people flee, swat or kill anything remotely resembling something they fear may sting them. Having recently witnessed an innocent honey bee meet just such an end while minding its own business collecting nectar from flowers, I offer some clarification.
Although bees, wasps, sawflies and ants all belong the Hymenoptera order of insects, meaning “membrane-winged,” honeybees and bumblebees belong to one family within this order, while wasps belong to several other different families. Hornets and yellow jackets are actually wasps, for example. Wasps are generally aggressive, territorial and predatory. Many feed on other insects and spiders, stinging their prey repeatedly to paralyze them beforehand.
Bees, on the other hand, live a more peaceful existence. Rounder-bodied and more “teddy bear” fuzzy than wasps, bees keep to themselves, moving from flower to flower for their simple diet of honey [and pollen]. No insect is as widely effective for pollinating the crops and flowers we all enjoy as the honeybee. They are not inclined to sting unless threatened, [and] die if they do. Their populations are in decline. Please, be kind to bees.”