Wasps, hornets and bees are stinging insects that are frequently confused. Although similar in appearance, each of these insect species has distinct features and behaviors that makes it unique from the others. Bees are easier to spot once you realize that their yellow-and-black bodies have a covering of fine hairs. The differences between the wasp and hornet are less obvious. When comparing wasp vs. bee, there are some big differences. Bees consume pollen and nectar and are pollinators of flowering plants. Wasps are attracted by sweet foods like fruit and juices, but they don’t perform any kind of pollinating function. Many wasp species are predators that eat other insects like caterpillars, beetles and spiders.
Another way to explain it: Bees are fuzzy pollen collectors that almost always die shortly after stinging people (because the stinger becomes embedded in the skin, which prevents multiple stings). Bees don’t die each time they sting, though; the primary purpose of the stinger is to sting other bees, which doesn’t result in the loss of the stinger.
Wasps are members of the family Vespidae, which includes yellow jackets and hornets. Wasps generally have two pairs of wings and are definitely not fuzzy. Only the females have stingers, but they can sting people repeatedly.
Hornets are a small subset of wasps not native to North America (the yellow jacket is not truly a hornet). Somewhat fatter around the middle than your average wasp, the European hornet is now widespread on the East Coast of the U.S. Like other wasps, hornets can sting over and over again and can be extremely aggressive.