Identification (Bee, Wasp (Yellow Jacket), Hornet)
Identification (Insects and Plants)
Insects in Maryland
Bees in Howard County Maryland
Bookmarker (Identify stining insects)
Know your Honey Bee
To assist the public in identification, Howard County Beekeepers Association has designed a bookmark with the insects that Marylander's most commonly mistaken for the honey bee.
Indentification (honey bee, yellow Jacket, Solitary Bee
Honey Bees, Yellow Jacket (wasp), Solitary Bees (Mining Bees, Orchard Mason Bees)
Almost everyone misidentifies Yellow Jackets as "bees", and yet the two belong to different families. It is a misfortunate misnomer that has been place on the bee, as most of the encounters resulting in a sting are not the responsibility of a bee, but are due to the Yellow Jacket. (See photos of both and thier nests)
Yellow Jackets are in actual fact members of the wasp family and are more commonly referred to as "wasps" in most English speaking countries. There are many differences between Yellow Jackets and bees. Here are just a few of them:
Coloring - Honey bees tend to be a tan or brownish yellow color and their bodies are covered in a dense coat of hairs. Yellow Jackets are different. They are brighter in color and are generally bright yellow and shiny black, or all black with white faces. They are not coated in hairs and have a relatively smooth appearance to their bodies.
Diet - Honey bees collect and feed on plant pollen, and as such are not as aggressive and dangerous as a predator or scavenger would be. However, Yellow Jackets are both predators and scavengers, eating both animal and plant matter, such as, meat, plant sap, or fruit juices.
Nesting - The colony of a bee can last more than a year, some times several years, so mature nests can be encountered at any time of year. Yellow Jackets tend to die of each year, with only a hibernating queen surviving into the next year. This means they have to start a new colony every spring. For this reason nest are usually only encountered in the late summer to early autumn, at a time when nests are at their maximum size.
Sting - Although both honey bees and yellow jackets sting, their physiology and behaviour differs. The bees stinger is barbed and remains imbedded in the wound, when the bee flies away the anchored sting pulls out some the insects internal organs including the poison gland. This means that when a honey bee stings, it will die shortly after. They will only sting as a last resort and will rather flee than fight. The Yellow Jacket is a different story altogether. Their stinger is smooth and barbless and is with drawn from the wound after the venom is delivered. This means that the singer is not left behind and the Yellow Jacket will not die, leaving it free to sting multiple times.
Aggression - Honey bees are generally gentle, almost never display a high level of aggression and do not swarm in defence of the colony. Yellow Jackets are generally move dangerous, as they tend to swam to defend their colony. Even the slightest knock can trigger this behaviour and they are often annoyed at the vibrations of lawn mowers, foot steps and other movements near there nests.
Nesting sites - Honey bees always nest above ground, choosing to place their colonies at the top of high branches, or other such lactations, away from ground predators. Yellow Jackets are not so picky about where they set up home and nest both above and under ground level. This makes it harder to avoid nesting sites, as they can be found nearly everywhere.
By experience, the two most common solitary bees in Howard County are the Orchard Mason Bee and the Mining Bee. The Mining Bee seems to be the most confused with Honey Bees by their size and color. However, the Mining Bee creates a nest in the ground. Some times, there can densely cover a small area.
Digger Bee (Notice color of thorax and no yellow stripes on abdomen)
Orchard Mason Bee
Both bees are docile, similar to the honey bee. There are no worker bees, the female lays the eggs, scavanges for the food (nectar and pollen). Both are good pollinators. However, these bees are usually seen in mid to late April and die off by early to mid June.