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Bee, Wasp, Drone Fly

Learning Intentions:

    Students will be able to:
  • observe and describe the differences between these three similar looking insects: a wasp, honey bee and drone fly 
  • observe and describe how they are similar 
  • use observations and research to name each of the insects pictured.

Preparation:

  • Optional: Collect any dead bees, wasps or drone flies if you find them on your home or classroom windowsills.
  • Optional: Find an observation site where bees and hover flies are foraging on flowers.

Word prompts

  • abdomen
  • antennae (feelers)
  • colours
  • eyes
  • feet
  • hairs
  • head
  • hooks
  • legs
  • mouthparts
  • patterns
  • shapes
  • thorax
  • wings

Click on the link below to download a printable A4 pdf of this sheet.

Compare Wasp, Bee and Drone Fly (pdf download, A4, 1 MB)

What to do

Wasps, honey bees and drone flies belong to different insect families, yet they look similar, especially when you see them on the move. So, people often confuse them and are afraid of all three. Yet one of them is harmless, and the other two can sting. 

Study the pictures and follow the steps below.

    How are they different?

    1. Using the pictures, spot the differences in the three different insects. Use the 'Prompt words' to the right to help with ideas.
    2. Also, study dead real insects if you have them.
    3. Record your observations in a table.
    4. Research to find out which one is a honey bee, a wasp and a drone fly. Record your evidence.

    How are they similar?

    1. Make a list of the things they all have in common.

    Observing the live insects

    Warning: Do not get within 1 metre of these insects unless you have adult supervision. 

    Whenever you see these insects at home or around about, take a mental note of 1) where you see them, 2) what they are doing, and 3) how they are behaving.

    Questions

    1. How do we know that all three are insects?
    2. Why do you think people so often mix up the three different insects?
    3. What features might make it easy to tell the difference between them when you spot the real insects moving about?
    4. How do they warn us that they might be able to sting?
    5. Which insect doesn't sting? How does it trick us into thinking it could hurt us?

    Going further

    Find out how each of the insects is important, for good and bad reasons.

    All photos copyright Peter E Smith, NSIL.