At first glance you could forgive somebody for thinking that bees and hornets are almost the same things, given that they’re both small, buzzing, flying, stinging insects.
However, in the world of tiny airborne terrors, they are very much unique from one another. There are around sixteen thousand species of bee on planet earth, with the western honey bee the most common by far.
Hornets, however, are a name given to the largest of the eusocial wasps, of which there exist twenty-two different subspecies.
Arguably the difference between bees and hornets is that a bee loses its sting and dies when it stings a human, whereas a hornet will be unaffected and free to sting again.
Comparison Table Between Bees and Hornets (in Tabular Form)
|Parameter of Comparison||Bees||Hornets|
|Size||1.5 centimetres||6 centimetres|
|Appearance||Furry, black and yellow striped||Red/brown or black/white|
|Aggression||Not very. Stings as last resort.||More than bees, less than wasps|
|Number of species||Approximately 16,000||22 current and 7 extinct|
|Queen’s egg production||Up to 1,500 per day||Up to 100 per day|
|Swarm size||40-60,000||Up to 700|
|Diet||Pollen and nectar||Fruit, other insects, food scraps|
|Main function||Pollinate different plants||Eat pests that damage plants|
What are Bees?
A typical honey bee is around half an inch long and has a yellow and black striped body that is covered by a fine layer of hair all over.
In this hair, they will often have a lot of pollen caught, as they are the primary pollinator of a huge array of different plant species. This makes bees incredibly important for the earth’s biosphere.However, bees are not super aggressive, and will only sting when provoked or threatened, such as somebody being too close to their hive.
If a bee does sting a human, the sting will break off and the bee will die. This is because a bee’s sting is designed for fighting other insects, not for taking down large animals.
Bees produce beeswax from the nectar and pollen eaten from plants and flowers, which they use to build a hive made from beeswax, giving them a safe place to live and store honey.
There are approximately sixteen thousand species of bees, and they are found on every continent except for Antarctica.
In one swarm there may be up to sixty thousand individual bees, the majority of which are workers (females), which have many different jobs inside the hive.
Worker bees help feed the queen, process and store honey and pollen, build and maintain the beehive, and collect water, pollen, and nectar for food and usage in the hive.
Around five percent of bees are drone (male) bees, whose sole responsibility is to impregnate a queen bee. Drone bees live forty days on average, whereas worker bees live up to four months.
What are Hornets?
A hornet is essentially a very large wasp, the largest of which can grow up to two and a half inches long. They are brown/red, and thankfully, less aggressive than other wasps.
The diet of a hornet consists primarily of other insects, and as such, hornets play an important role in the control of crop-destroying pests.
Hornets have also been known to eat fruits, as well as other food scraps left by humans.
Typically, hornets are more aggressive than bees and are more likely to attack than fly away if provoked.
Unfortunately, the hornet’s sting is also more painful than that of a bee, because it is a larger barb, and because it does not break off in human skin, allowing the insect to sting over and over.
There is also a poison found in a hornet’s sting which is not found in bees, causing the aftershock to be two to three times more painful than a bee sting.
There are twenty-two known, current species of hornet, the largest of which is the Asian giant hornet, measuring two inches long on average. There are seven known, extinct hornet species.
Swarms of hornets can number up to seven hundred, with one queen per swarm or nest who will live for around twelve months, producing approximately one hundred eggs per day.
Male hornets, known as drones, live for approximately three weeks and have the sole responsibility of impregnating a virgin queen bee once they have left the nest.
On the other hand, female hornets will live for only two weeks, and spend their time foraging, maintaining the nest, and looking after the queen’s larvae.
Main Differences Between Bees and Hornets
- Bees are 1.5cm long on average, whereas hornets can grow up to 6cm.
- Hornets are much more aggressive than bees, however less so than other wasps. They also have a more painful sting than bees and do not die when stinging a human.
- Bees are furry, with black and yellow stripes, whereas hornets are a solid brown/red color, or sometimes black and white.
- There are approximately sixteen thousand different species of bees, and only twenty-two species of hornet living today.
- A queen bee can produce 1,500 eggs per day during her peak, whereas a queen hornet can only manage around 100.
- The lifespan of a hornet is very short-lived compared to a bee, with hornet queens living for around twelve months, whereas queen bees can live for up to five years.
Despite their slightly threatening reputation, both hornets and wasps are incredibly beneficial and essential insects for the earth’s biosphere.
Bees live off of nectar and pollen and will aid in plant pollination while traveling between different areas, whereas the hornet protects plants from other crop-destroying insects by eating them.
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