Bees vs. Wasps: Bees In The Garden Win Every Time

By Mary H. Dyer | August 14, 2020
Image by Maya Jane
by Mary H. Dyer
August 14, 2020

When it comes to pollinators, I’m partial to bees for garden pollination. After all, they work hard, and they’re very good at their job – moving pollen from one flower to another. They’re essential for a healthy ecosystem. Bees are found in rural and urban areas around the world, except for Antarctica.

Although they aren’t the only pollinator, they are by far the most effective compared to others, including butterflies, bats, moths, hummingbirds – and wasps.

Bees vs. Wasps

We’ve had a serious wasp infestation at our house for the last two summers. I know they pollinate because I’ve seen them foraging on my flowers, but I still don’t like them. They are paper wasps, and they are mean. My poor pup isn’t thrilled when they buzz around his head because he was stung several times last year. He’s a Lab. He remembers.

Wasps build nests anywhere there’s space, including under our deck and on the bottom of lawn chairs. We have an unusual number of barn swallows this year, and I’m hoping they’ll eliminate some wasps.

Many people use the words “bee” and “wasp” interchangeably, but this is a mistake because they aren’t the same and they aren’t equally harmful or helpful. Wasps are pollinators, but they’re primarily predators, which I have to admit is in their favor because they prey on harmful insect pests. Still, a garden full of wasps isn’t fun.

Wasps are more aggressive by nature, and apparently sting for little reason, but more so if they’re agitated. They can sting several times because their stingers aren’t barbed. Bees sting when they feel threatened (like if you step on them in your bare feet – ask me how I know). Most bees have barbed stingers and can only sting once because they die when the stingers pull out of their bodies. 

Bees and wasps are very different in appearance too. Wasps have narrow waists and smooth bodies. Bees are plump, and their fuzzy bodies and hairy legs help them gather pollen.

Unfortunately, bees are threatened by habitat loss, use of pesticides and herbicides, and disease. Unless you’re allergic, it’s a good idea to invite bees in the garden, and it isn’t difficult. Plant a variety of blooming plants, primarily native plants that have adapted to your area along with local bees. Plant flowers in groups instead of singly for more effective foraging.

It may take time for bees to find your garden, but be patient; if you plant flowers, they will come.

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