BEES, WASPS & YELLOW JACKETS
Bees are flying insects closely related to wasps and ants, known for their role in pollination and, in the case of the best-known bee species, the European honey bee, for producing honey and beeswax. There are nearly 20,000 known species of bees in seven recognized biological families and they are found on every continent except Antarctica, in every habitat on the planet that contains insect-pollinated flowering plants.
Some species including honey bees, bumblebees, and stingless bees live socially in colonies. Bees are adapted for feeding on nectar and pollen.
Wasps are a group of inspects in the same suborder as ants and bees, Apocrita. They are distinguished by their behavior and physical characteristics. Their bodies and legs are smooth and slender with very little hair. Wasps tend to be predatory or parasitic. Their stingers are barbed and they are equipped with large mandibles they use for crushing and eating other insects. Wasps are divided into two groups, social wasps that live in colonies and solitary wasps, which live alone. The most familiar social wasp in our region is the yellow jacket.
Yellow jackets are sometimes mistaken as paper wasps. A typical yellow jacket worker is about 12 mm (0.5 in) long, with alternating bands on the abdomen; the queen is larger, about 19 mm (0.75 in) long (the different patterns on their abdomens help separate various species). Workers are sometimes confused with honey bees, especially when flying in and out of their nests. Yellow Jackets, in contrast to honey bees, have yellow or white markings, are not covered with tan-brown dense hair on their bodies, do not carry pollen, and do not have the flattened hairy hind legs used to carry it.
These species have lance-like stingers with small barbs, and typically sting repeatedly. The venom, like most bee and wasp venom, is primarily only dangerous to humans who are allergic or are stung many times. All species have yellow or white on their faces. Their mouth parts are well-developed with strong mandibles for capturing and chewing insects, with probosces for sucking nectar, fruit, and other juices. Yellow jackets build nests in trees, shrubs, or in protected places such as inside man-made structures, or in soil cavities, tree stumps, mouse burrows, etc. They build them from wood fiber they chew into a paper-like pulp.