Wasps? Hornets?

I like to eat my lunch in the garden and watch the flying insects. For the most part they are not interested in me, and only occasionally will a yellow jacket check out my lunch and drive me inside. There is one tiny, skinny bee-like insect that likes to hover close to my face, a bit unnerving but it does me no harm. 

Lately I’ve become an insect voyeur, spending time observing bees, wasps, dragonflies, butterflies up close if I can. The honey bees and bumblebees tend to be so drunken with their nectar cocktails that they will even fall asleep (especially on the sunflowers) and get carried in the house if I don’t shoo them off. I take a lot of close up pics of the others, who move too quickly for me to sketch them from life. 

But then there’s the labeling conundrum. For instance, these two didn’t quite match the pictures I found online. But the word “handsome” popped to mind. Then “hornet”, and I liked the alliteration and wrote them down on the illustration before I realized that these two were more likely wasps, because of relatively small size. I’ve always had a problem with the distinction. All hornets are wasps, but not all wasps are hornets. Hornets tend to be bigger than an inch and “meaner” than other wasps because they release a neurotoxin in their sting. Ouch! But they can all sting repeatedly, unlike honey bees who have one shot at it. And wasps are carnivores. Unlike those pollen fuzzy bees and bumblers, they eat bugs, and that’s a good thing for us vegetable gardeners who don’t appreciate the bugs sucking the juices out of our vegetables and leaving behind big holes in the leaves.

But of course you know all this. But just in case you’re a little fuzzy on distinctions like myself and are prone to lump bugs and insects into the same category. . . Insects always have three body parts and six legs. They also usually have four wings and two antennae. Whereas true bugs have specialized parts of their mouths to suck juices, mostly from plants. In other words insects will get you from their back end and bugs from the front end. Haha! or neither, which is what we hope. End of science lesson for today.

You entomologists out there . . .please correct me where I am wrong!

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8 comments

  1. Flies only have one pair of wings. That’s how you can tell the difference between bees and bee-like flies like syrphid flies. Syrphid flies are also called hover flies or flower flies as they eat pollen and nectar from flowers as adults. As larvae that look like slugs they eat aphids.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Kate! Now I know who to come to for answers to my entomological questions! So I guess those are the syrphid flies that have been checking me out. Great to know that they are in the crew of beneficials in my garden.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, I am guessing it was syrphid flies that were hovering near your face. They are very common in most gardens, that don’t use pesticides. I am happy to try and answer any bug questions.

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