We all love to hate things that sting, but did you know they’re not all created equal?
As a beekeeper, I get frustrated when people complain about getting stung by a bee. While honeybees do sting, it’s not very likely that you’ve gotten in the way of one.
The most common culprit is likely to be a yellow jacket, wasp, or hornet. These insects are characterized by their skinny waists (though all the varieties look different). They build paper nests and feed primarily on other insects, like spiders.
They don’t need to have a reason to sting you. They’re as happy to sting you as look at you, and equally happy to sting you multiple times. They don’t leave a stinger behind, and it doesn’t cause their death. They’re just mean.
Honeybees, on the other hand, are fat with brown and black stripes (see photo above), which makes them easy to differentiate. Bees have only two reasons to sting you. One, you startled it (maybe touching it while picking a flower). Or, two, you’re too close to their hive. Unlike a wasp, a bee will never hunt you down “in the wild,” seeking to inflict pain.
A bee may leave its stinger in, and you’ll need to remove it. Yes, the bee died giving you the pain. It can only sting once.
More to the point, honeybees are valuable pollinators for approximately 70% of our North American crops. They are absolutely vital for food as we know it today. Pesticides and herbicides are killing our bees in vast numbers, but without bees, we aren’t likely to keep enjoying almonds, cherries, apples, cucumbers, avocadoes, pumpkins, and more.
What can you do to help save the bees?
- Learn the difference between the good guys (bees) and the bad guys (hornets, wasps, and yellow jackets)—although the bad guys have their place in the food chain, too.… continue reading