We have all seen the bumblebee with its coat of fur but when it comes to wasps it is much less clear.
Most wasps only have very fine hair on their body compared to bees. This is likely because they mostly do not produce honey so do not need the fur as a way to collect pollen. As only queen wasps overwinter the hair is also not needed for warmth. Some wasps, however, such as the velvet ant have evolved to be very hairy as a warning mechanism to ward off predators.
As a general rule wasps tend to be less furry (hairy) than bees. Even wasps that appear hairless, however, do have a covering of fine hairs. This is evidenced by their role as pollinators. Wasps will get a significant amount of pollen stuck to their bodies, which they transfer to the next flower. Wasps’ role as pollinators, while less efficient than bees, has often been overlooked, but increasingly they are being recognized for this important role.
Wasps don’t need to collect pollen in their fur
Most wasps do not need to collect pollen as they do not make honey. Wasp larvae are also carnivores so wasps will feed insects to their brood, as opposed to pollen. For this reason, wasps do not need to be as hairy as bees, which use their hair to help them collect pollen to make honey.
The Mexican Honey Wasp has a hairy head
Some wasps, including the Mexican honey wasp, do produce honey and so they also need to collect pollen. For this reason, they have a hairier head than other wasp species. This makes these wasps more effective at pollinating the avocado plant and are recognized for their importance in helping avocados propagate. Read More
Wasps don’t rely on hair to keep warm
Honey Bees will overwinter in their nests. They cluster together and vibrate to create warmth. Their furry bodies undoubtedly help them in this regard. Wasps, however, do not survive cold weather. When the winter approaches almost all wasps will die. Only queen wasps hibernate, and they need to find sheltered spots to protect them from the cold. Read More
The velvet ant is a furry wasp
Some wasps such as the velvet ant (yes, it is a wasp) have a lot of body hair. Called ants because the females can not fly it is believed the hair and its colors have evolved as warming that it is venomous. Animals over time learn to associate the bright colors and fur with danger. Read more about velvet ants here.
Velvet ants have even mimicked other velvet ant species in order to benefit from the added deterrent provided by strength in numbers. Of the 300 species across North America scientists found that they had formed 8 coloring clusters. (source) The bright furry colorations certainly make them hard to miss.
Their furry bright colors are no empty threat. They are infamous for their painful stings and they have been given the name ‘cow killer’ as a result. On the Schidmt insect pain index, these wasps score a 3, which put them in the top few most painful stings out of all insects. Read More