Is it a Bee, a Wasp or a Fly?
Bees and wasps are closely related insects that evolved from a common ancestor. The major difference between bees and wasps is that bees, with their specialized branched and plumose hairs, obtain their protein from pollen and are vegetarian; wasps are carnivorous and obtain their protein from meat and other insects. Wasps appear relatively hairless.
Similarly to bees, wasps forage for sugar from flowers and in addition forage for sugar from pop bottles, decaying fruit or any other sugary substance. Flies often mimic bees in colour and shape, but they can be distinguished from bees and wasps by having a close look at their antennae. Bees have a pair of antennae made of rodlike segments. Flies often mimic the striped appearance of bees, but the absence of rodlike segmented antennae is a giveaway that you are looking at a fly and not a bee, no matter what its colour. Bluebottle flies look a lot like mason bees, but their habit of being on refuse and not on open flowers is a good indictor you are looking at a fly and not a bee.
|Mason bee (note the mites on its body)|
photo source: frog pond photography
|Simple mason bee nest|
|More elaborate mason bee nest|