- The Animal Encyclopedia for Kids

Bee or Wasp - What’s the Difference?

1. Anatomical Differences

Bees, bumblebees, wasps and hornets are small insects just millimeters long. Bumblebees and hornets are easiest to identify, as bumblebees have thick, fluffy bodies and hornets are particularly big. Bees and wasps are harder to identify at a passing glance.

Body Shape

Bees and bumblebees have short bodies. The bumblebee’s body is often very round and wide. Wasps and hornets are longer, slimmer and have much more definition between the first and second segments of the abdomen.

Body shape:

  • Bee: Short, slim
  • Bumblebee: Short, wide, round
  • Wasp: Long, slim, narrow
  • Hornet: Long, wide

Body - Photos: Ikordela (Bee), Ian Grainger (Bumblebee), Evgeniy Ayupov (Wasp), Christian Gusa (Hornet)/Shutterstock

Body Size

Across all four insect types, the queens are always the biggest by far. But you will rarely ever see one, as they spend most of their time in the nest - just like the slightly smaller drones (males). The smallest are the workers, so the animals that fly away to gather food.

Body sizes (just workers):

  • Bee: 0.4-0.5 inches (11-13 mm)
  • Bumblebee: 0.3-0.6 inches (8-16 mm)
  • Wasp: 0.5-0.6 inches (12-16 mm)
  • Hornet: 0.7-0.9 inches (18-25 mm)

Sizes - Potos: Daniel Prudek (Bee), Ant Cooper (Bumblebee), Maciej Olszewski (Wasp), Ger Bosma Photos (Hornet)/Shutterstock

Body Hair

Bees and bumblebees have lots of small hairs that are hard to see with the naked eye. On both insect types, the body seems matte and soft thanks to these hairs. Bees tend to have hair primarily on the top part of the body, while bumblebees also have fur on the bottom part of their abdomens. Bumblebees have particularly long hair, making them look very fluffy - almost like a stuffed animal!

Wasps and hornets have bare, very smooth and shiny bodies. They have a few tiny little hairs on the top part of their bodies. But you’d have to look very closely.

Body hair:

  • Bee: Yes
  • Bumblebee: Yes, a lot
  • Wasp: Very little
  • Hornet: Very little

Body - Photos: Ikordela (Bee), Ian Grainger (Bumblebee), Evgeniy Ayupov (Wasp), Christian Gusa (Hornet)/Shutterstock

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