A few of us got together last night for coffee to discuss something about the United Beekeepers of Alberta. After that, one of the folks mentioned that she was preparing to meet a group in a couple of weeks to discuss public panic about bees. She had a great display which really woke me to the reason people confuse wasps with honey bees. Such confusion can create a serious problem for beekeepers. Honey bees rarely cause mischief away from their nest. They are too busy finding flowers and can’t be bothered to bother us. But wasps are meat eaters, a bit more aggressive, pack a nasty sting, and often enjoy picnics, bar-b-ques, and the faces of guests on our backyard decks.
I used to think that everyone could distinguish a honey bee from a wasp. Honey bees, we learn from a very early age, look like this:
Maybe we didn’t eat Cheerios breakfast cereal and stare at its famous cartoon bee every morning of our childhood. Nevertheless, we probably had an overly-friendly grade school teacher who emboldened our first compositions with black and yellow and black and yellow bee stamps that featured bees doing math or saying pithy things such as Bee Good or Bee Happy. Like this:
So, we get this image in our young minds of a honey bee. Bright and shiny, black and yellow. And then we see one.
So, that’s what a honey bee looks like. If they are all over our deck, it’s time to call the neighbourhood beekeeper and tell her to come and get her pesky honey bees. She tells us those are wasps, then returns with a couple of photos that look like this:
Well, surely she’s made some big mistake, hasn’t she? Those don’t look anything like the cartoon honey bees we’ve grown to love.
Sometimes it’s hard to re-educate people. But my friend with these pictures had a good way of teaching the difference. I don’t know if my friend’s infographic, below, is her own original idea. It doesn’t matter. It’s a great tool. I’ll probably make a similar one to help people distinguish gentle honey-making bugs from wasps and yellow jackets.