Identifying Wasps

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Wasps, like most insects, have a three-part body, and they tend to not be covered in hair. Find out how to identify different types of wasps, such as spider wasps and cuckoo wasps, with information from a biology teacher in this free video on insects.

Part of the Video Series: Wasp, Hornets, & Bees
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Video Transcript

When I was growing up, my nickname was Mrs. Doolittle. Animals seem to love me and I love them right back. Unfortunately, the animals that love me, included the ones that enjoyed stinging me. I spent a lot of time outside as a kid and I still do as an adult. That's one of my favorite places to be. But, outside is where those stinging insects are and I've had my share of wasp stings. Pretty painful stuff. Insects are an incredibly diverse group of animals. Scientists estimate there is over 300,000 of them. And a number of those species fall into the category of bees, wasps and hornets. But how do you know if you are dealing with a bee vs. a wasp? Well, there are some ways that you can, some simple tricks you can look for to identify probably what you're dealing with. One of the things that you can actually look at is the animals body. Unfortunately, it means getting close enough to potentially get stung. So you gotta be careful. Wasps, like most insects, have a three part body. They have a head, they have a thorax and they have an abdomen. But unlike bees, wasps tend to not be covered with hair. They tend to be pretty sparse, whereas bees tend to be pretty furry so that the pollen will stick to them while they are pollinating flowers. Now there is lots of different types of wasps. There are gall wasps and there are paper wasps. There are cuckoo wasps and spider wasps. And, there's the yellow jacket which a lot of people confuse for being a bee. But the yellow jacket again, tends to have a slimmer body, not a lot of hairs and the few hairs it does have are very simple. Unlike a bee's hair, which are kind of branched like a feather so that it can catch the maximum amount of pollen. So, if you've gotten bitten by something, if it hurts really, really bad, it may very well be a wasp, even if you thought from a distance, it was a bee. Get out a magnifying glass and field guide and maybe you can even figure out what species it was. I'm Janice Creneti, and this is identifying wasps.


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