Bees vs Wasps: What You Need to Know

You hear something buzzing by and catch a black and yellow streak out of the corner of your eye. Quick! Was it a bee or a wasp? And what’s the difference anyway?

While you certainly wouldn’t mistake an inch long bumble bee or a carpenter bee for a common wasp, wasps and honeybees can sometimes look very similar. Honeybees come in black and yellow—like yellow jackets—but also solid brown or solid black. Honeybees are rotund and fuzzy. They can only sting once, and then they die. This makes them more hesitant to sting people than wasps, which have narrow waists and are smooth and shiny. Wasps come in a variety of colors and patterns and can sting multiple times and come back for more. 

Like honeybees, many species of wasps are social wasps. They make large, paper-like wasp nests out of wood pulp and saliva where they lay eggs and raise their young. These are known collectively as “paper wasps”.

If you’re wondering about hornets, the main difference between wasps and hornets is the size. Wasps tend to be smaller and have black and yellow stripes, whereas hornets are larger and have black and white stripes. This is with the exception of the mud dauber; the mud dauber is a solitary type of wasp that prefers not to sting humans or animals. 

Bees are also social animals, building a bees nest to raise their young. The queen sends out worker bees to collect pollen and protect the nest, so most any honey bee you encounter will be a worker bee. 

Both bees and wasps serve an important role in our ecosystem. Bees pollinate our plants and wasps consume pest insects.

No matter what type of stinging insect you encounter you’ll want to be careful. Wasp and bee stings can sometimes be life-threatening if the person has a bee or wasp venom allergy. So be careful around them. If you find a nest too close to where you live or play contact a pest control company. They can verify whether you’re dealing with honey bees (in which case, they’ll likely relocate the nest) or wasps or hornets (in which case they’ll dispose of the insects as pests).

So the next time you hear that buzz, take a closer look (if you’re not allergic!) and you’ll be able to tell the difference between a bee and a wasp.

Dealing With Squash Borers

If you’ve grown squash plants in your home gardens, be they pumpkins, zucchini, or butternut squash, you may have dealt with squash borers and not even known it. Have your plants ever wilted seemingly overnight? Have you seen big, mushy holes in the plant stems? That’s a sure sign that you have squash borers. Here are a few tips on how to avoid these highly destructive pests so you can produce a bountiful harvest from your summer squashes and winter squash plants. 

Squash borers are the larvae form of a certain type of orange and black moth about an inch long that is active by day. Many people may recognize these adult moths as wasps because they have a similar look; but they’re not wasps, in fact, the adult squash vine borer is a moth. 

In early July adult moths begin looking for host plants on which to lay squash bug eggs. They lay shiny copper eggs on squash stems at the base of the plant, or sometimes on the leaves themselves. Once the eggs hatch borer larva emerge and eat their way into the stems of squash and pumpkin plants. They reside inside the plants, eating away at the stems until the next phase in their life cycle happens and they become moths, starting the whole thing over again. 

There are a few tricks you can try to prevent squash borers. When the plants are young you can wrap the stems in aluminum foil to inhibit the moth’s ability to access the base of the plant. As the plants age, you should loosen these wraps so as not to strangle the plants. 

Floating row covers that cover the entire plant will keep squash borer moths off your plants and interrupt the life cycle. 

Some people place yellow bowls filled with water and a drop or two of detergent near the plants to lure the moths and drown them. 

Another tactic is to mulch the stems; this will help support the plant and prevent the moth from reaching the stems. 

The best way to prevent squash borers is to spray BT (beneficial bacteria spray) on the base and stems of the plant once a week. BT is a naturally occurring bacteria that ONLY kills caterpillars and eggs. It does not harm beneficial insects like bees. By using BT, any borers will quickly be killed before they can munch on your squash garden. BT is considered organic and many organic farmers use BT spray.

Whichever method you choose (or even if you do several) remember to keep your squash well-watered. They’re big drinkers and if they’re weak from dehydration they’re more easily susceptible to being infested with pests. Follow these tips and you’re sure to have a bountiful season’s harvest!

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