Everyone knows the familiar buzzing in the garden during the summer months. Bees and wasps, the delightful ones flying from flower to flower and buzzing around us. The fear of being stung by these animals is very big with us humans, which is why we usually stay away from them. But what do we actually know about these fascinating insects? Together with biologist, beekeeper and author Dr. Melanie von Orlow, we will give you a small insight into the wasp and bee world and explain the background.
How important are bees and wasps for our ecosystem?
Whether honey bee or solitary wasp: These insect species are extremely important for our ecosystem and many people are not even aware of this. But why? Our expert explains that bees and wasps are very important for our vegetation diversity. They act primarily as pollinators, i.e. they fly from flower to flower and pollinate them with the pollen collected beforehand. This can lead to the development of vitamin-rich foods such as fruit and vegetables, because only a few foods such as grains can exist without insect pollination.
Another important factor is that bees and wasps are also important prey for other animals and many vertebrates, including humans, can also benefit from their products, such as honey.
Wasps and bees are an important part of our ecosystem
How do wasps & bees live?
In principle, a distinction is made between two life forms in bees and wasps. On the one hand, there are solitary bees and wasps, which are classic loners and build their nests without any help from their conspecifics. In comparison, social bees and wasps are those that live together in an insect colony and protect themselves together against danger. Depending on the species, such an insect colony can consist of a variety of insects.
In the case of the honeybee, this can sometimes be up to 40.000 animals. For wasps as well as for bees, an insect colony consists of a queen, many workers and drones, which can live together through organized division of labour. The workers do the important work and the drones are the male animals, which are responsible for mating with the queen.
Similar to mosquitos, no precise statement can be made about the length of a bee and wasp life. Again, the lifespan depends very much on the season and whether the wasps and bees live in an insect colony or are solitary wasps and bees.
What are the main differences between wasps and bees?
In order to understand the differences between a wasp and a bee, it is important to know that both species evolved from the same ancestors. These ancestors were solitary wasp species, i.e. individually living wasps that are not bound to a wasp state.
Different wasp and bee species have developed gradually from this original species. Bees represent a vegetarian form of wasp, as their food sources are based on pollen and nectar and are purely vegetable. Wasps, on the other hand, rely more on animal protein in addition to nectar, like other insects.
There are also differences in the physique of these insects. Our expert explains that bees have strong body hair to transport the pollen they collect. Wasps, on the other hand, are known to be smoother and have sharp pincers, to catch and split their prey.
Can all bees and wasps produce honey?
The answer is no. Only certain species of bees have this ability and that are the honeybees, which collect the nectar from flowers and deposit it in their hive. The nectar collected by the bees is enriched with enzymes that break down sugar and reduce water content. This increases the concentration of sugar and the nectar lasts longer.
According to the German beekeepers' association, for 500 grams of honey, worker bees have to fly out about 40,000 times and cover a distance of about 120,000 km, which shows how important cohesion and hard work in the bee world is.
Honey bees are capable of producing honey
Why do these insects sting?
Most people have been stung by a bee or wasp at some time in their lives. Such a sting can be very painful and even life-threatening for allergy sufferers. But why do these animals actually sting? Melanie von Orlow explains that there are two reasons for this. As soon as the animals are exposed to an immediate threat and feel unsafe, bees and wasps have the urge to defend themselves and sting.
This threat can occur, for example, if you step on a live wasp or squash it. It is also important to know that we can only be stung by live bees and wasps. If you step on a dead bee, you cannot inject poison through the sting.
Melanie von Orlow also mentions the defence of her own nest as another reason. Especially social bees and wasps live together in an insect colony and feel safe and protected there. If they are threatened at home, as when the nest is destroyed, the animals feel insecure and do everything they can to save themselves and their conspecifics.
What happens in the event of a bee or wasp sting?
There are also some differences between wasps and bees in the stinging process and the sting itself, which should be mentioned briefly. A special characteristic of the honey bee is that the stinging apparatus, including the associated muscles, is torn out of the bee during a sting and gets stuck in the skin of the vertebrate. The sting is still able to act due to the muscle power and the nerve knots and continues to drive the poison into the sting. In this way, the bee increases the damage to the stung animal and improves the protection of the colony.
In comparison, a wasp is able to sting more than once. Basically, it can be concluded that a bee sting is more painful than a wasp sting because a bee injects all its poison in one sting and the wasps divide their poison for multiple stings.
When we are stung by these animals, the insect injects a protein poison. Our body reacts to this substance and our immune system is activated. This body own defence system causes pain and sometimes considerable swelling immediately afterwards. In the further course of healing it can lead to considerable itching.
What helps against a bee or wasp sting?
If you have been stung by a bee, the basic rule is: Remove the sting immediately! There are various home remedies that can be used for treatment and their effects are controversial. In case of doubt, a doctor should always be consulted, especially in case of an allergic reaction.
For a quick relief of itching and pain it is worthwhile to use our heat_it, who treats the affected skin area and can provide relief. Just heat_it!
Our heat it was already critically inspected by a wasp
PS: Both bees and wasps are subject to nature protection and may not be killed without sufficient reason. Of course we wanted to give our little visitor in the heat_it headquarters the opportunity to get to know our new weapon against wasp and bee stings and afterwards we brought him back outside.
For further information: Berliner Hymenopterendienst (www.hymenopterendienst.de)