Wasps are social or in some cases, solitary insects. Wasps create a new nest each year when a solitary female or 'queen' emerges from hibernation in the spring. The queen will build a small golf ball sized nest for the first generation of workers that she will raise on her own. Once the first generation emerges, known as the 'workers', they collect food and materials for the queen to lay more eggs to increase the population of the worker wasps. Larvae are fed pre-chewed insects and other materials. Adult workers generally feed on flower nectar and fruits. The nest consists of several tiers of comb covered by a round paper casing with an entrance at the bottom. Nests are typically located in trees or shrub branches, although they may be built on the sides of houses or in the ground. The nest structure grows rapidly over the summer since workers continually add to the paper nest as the population grows. As fall approaches, colonies produce males and new queens, which leave the nest to mate. Newly mated queens burrow into the ground where they spend the winter. The workers, males, and the old queen perish in the fall. Nests are not reused. The most common wasp in Winnipeg is known as the Yellow Jacket.
We consider wasps to be useful insects because they are predators of many other small insects and are beneficial to humans by pollinating various varieties of flowering plants. In addition, they are scavengers, feeding on dead insect carcasses.
Wasps can sting multiple times since their stinger is barbless and does not come out when it pierces your skin. Wasps sting when they feel threatened or their nest is disturbed or damaged and will release a pheromone to signal other wasps of the danger or threat, potentially causing multi wasp attacking. Wasp stings can cause allergic reactions such as difficulty breathing or speaking, swelling in the mouth or throat, wheezing, hives or rash, tightness in the chest. By remaining calm and not annoying wasps by swatting, you decrease your chance of being stung.
Bees are common insects, and we find them almost anywhere, especially on flowers. The two most common bees are Bumble bees and Honey bees.
Bees normally build their nests in the soil. However, they use other natural holes such as abandoned rodent nests or tree hollows. Most bees live by themselves but the honeybee is a social insect. It lives with other honeybees.
Bees are generally more mild-mannered than wasps and are less likely to sting. Bees can only sting once. Because they have a barbed stinger, it gets stuck once the bee has stung. When it tries to fly away, the bee dies.
Adult bees are medium sized, grayish-yellow with black or brown banding on the abdomen. They are fuzzy. Honey bees live in colonies with a single queen and many workers. Every fall the queen leaves the nest, spending the winter in a sheltered place. The workers gradually starve to death in their nest.
Bumble bees are black and yellow bees that are large and fuzzy. They are called bumble bees because they frequently bump into things. Bumble bees live in colonies and build their small nests in holes or cracks in the ground.