Do You Know What's in Your Backyard?

Test your knowledge of some of the differences between bees and non-bees such as flies and wasps! When you’re done, read more about bee identification and planting for bee diversity in your garden.

QUESTION: Approximately how many species of native bees are there in North America?

ANSWER: There are approximately 4,000 species of native bees in North America.

QUESTION: What is the difference between what a bee and a wasp feed their young?

bees feed young
ANSWER: Bees generally feed their developing larvae plant protein in the form of pollen, while wasps generally feed their young protein derived from other animals, usually in the form of spiders or caterpillars.

QUESTION: How many sets of wings do bees have?

bee wings
ANSWER: Bees have two sets of wings. Flies, including the ones that mimic bees, only have one pair of wings. (Wasps are similar to bees and have two sets of wings.)

QUESTION: What is a difference between the body of a bumble bee or a honey bee, and the body of a wasp?

smooth wasp body
ANSWER: The thorax and abdomens of bumble bees and honey bees are covered in branched hairs, which make them look fuzzy. Wasps’ bodies are typically smooth, lacking “fuzzy” hair.

Note: There are some wasps that are very hairy, but generally speaking, they are usually less hairy than bees, and those with hairs typically have simple (non-branched) hairs.  And, on the other hand, there are bees that are hairless and smooth, just as there is a small group of wasps that feed their larvae pollen, and an even smaller group of bees that are carnivorous. With so many species of both bees and wasps there are always going to be exceptions to rules. Evolution is fun that way.

QUESTION: Do bees have a tongue?

bee tongue
ANSWER: Bee mouthparts are divided into a pair of mandibles for chewing and the other mouthparts have been elongated into a proboscis (tube-like mouthparts, or yes, “tongue”) that is used for both sucking up nectar and “licking” (for grooming and cleaning).

QUESTION: Where do bees carry their pollen?

pollen basket
ANSWER: Bees carry their pollen in specialized regions on their bodies. Honey bees and bumble bees carry pollen in a corbicula, a smooth scoop-like section of their hind tibia fringed by stiff hairs, often called a pollen basket. Other types of bees carry pollen in a scopa, a region of dense branched hairs, often times found on the hind leg or the underside of the abdomen, depending to which family of bee it belongs.

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