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How can you tell the difference between a yellowjacket and a hornet? And how much cosmic XP do you need to evolve a wasp into a bee? Follow the insect that stung you, and discover the fascinating world of wasp nests and bee hives.
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[SciShow intro plays]   Hank: It's summer! And there you are, exploring the great outdoors and suddenly you hear a buzz, see a flash of yellow and black and--yagh! You've been stung! Was it a bee or wasp or a yellow jacket or hornet? If you didn't get a good look at the tiny attacker, you could always try following it home, you know, carefully, because you can learn a lot about certain kinds of stinging insects by looking at their nests.   First up you should know that all wasps and bees belong to the Hymenoptera Order of insects. And bees actually evolved from wasps sometime around a hundred and thirty million years ago. This probably happened when a solitary female wasp somehow, maybe even accidentally, introduced pollen to her personal nest while bringing insect prey back for her larva. Pollen, is full of protein and could have been a nutritious food source especially when prey insects were scarce.

So, scientists think that some wasps might have started actively collecting pollen and eventually gave up hunting entirely, trading their smooth, elongated bodies with big mandibles, for bodies that were adapted to collect pollen and mouth parts to slurp up nectar. In other words, they evolved into the first solitary bees. Lots of differences we see between wasps and bees today reflect these food choices. Whether they nest alone or are social types that live in colonies.

Some solitary female wasps just lay eggs in paralyzed pray, but others create a small nest to store the bodies by reusing holes and wood made by other insects, building it out of mud or digging it into the ground. Solitary bees bring back pollen and nectar to a wood or dirt chamber. Sometimes lining their nests with different materials depending on the species. For example, Mason Bees use mud, Carpenter Bees use saw dust and Leaf- Cutter Bees, well, you get the picture. They use tiny leaf pieces.   But what about the colonies? Those big old nests you see in trees or on the corner your garage? Most social wasps, which include Yellow Jackets and Hornets, are in the family Vespidae, and make their nests out of paper. They come in different shapes and sizes depending on what kind of wasp is building.

If you're looking at a big umbrella shaped nest, tucked under the eaves of your house and you can see hexagonal cells then, probably that's a home to some Paper Wasps. If it's a football-shaped nest with smooth walls hanging from say, a tree branch, you're probably standing next to a colony of Hornets. If you see a stream of wasps zipping into a hole in the ground or the walls of a building, you're probably watching Yellow Jackets duck into their hidden home.

Each spring, a Queen wasp starts constructing her new colony in her preferred location by gathering wood pulp, scraping her mandibles against things like tree branches, fence posts, and even cardboard boxes. She mixes this pulp with saliva to make a fibery-goo that dries into a solid, paper structure. She'll then lay some eggs that will grow into female workers, who will help expand and defend the nest.   Most wasp colonies tend to be pretty small. Some Paper Wasp nests have fewer than a hundred individuals while, some Yellow Jacket nests hold up to a couple thousand. And aside from the Queen these wasps may only live for a few weeks, so especially in temperate areas their nests really only need to provide shelter for a season's worth of offspring before their abandoned and left to degrade.

Everyone dies, besides any fertilized Queens, and even they abandon ship to find a safe place to hibernate for the cold winter before starting the whole cycle over again. But social bees in the family Apidae, like Bumble Bees and Honey Bees, they do things kind of differently.   Bumble Bees still have pretty small nests holding up to a few hundred bees and they build them in all kinds of protected places: abandoned rodent dens thick grass, sheds or in trees. Their Queens operate on yearly cycles as well. Hibernating over the winter then emerging in the spring to gather food.   But bees lack the proper mouth parts to make their hives out of paper so, instead they secrete a durable, waxy substance from their abdomens to construct nectar pots and start a small colony. Honey Bees on the other hand, carefully select the perfect hive location as a group. Favoring protected areas like, inside the hollow of tree cavities, within walls or in artificial beekeeper boxes.   Honey Bee hives are sturdy. Constructed out of organized hexagonal honeycomb cells that they used to store honey, pollen and raise larvae. Their colonies are huge, supporting tens of thousands of members, who live up to a couple months. And these hives are built to last through the winter, since these bees store around 60 pounds of honey for food and huddle together for warmth.
So we all know bees are essential for their role in pollination and you might hate social wasps for setting up camp in your garage but, they do help to keep pests insect populations down and their homes are perfectly suited for their lifestyles. Thanks for watching this episode of SciShow, which is brought to you in part by Audible.   Right now Audible is offering SciShow viewers a free 30-day trial membership. Check out where you can choose from over a hundred and eighty thousand audio programs and titles. Such as, Bees in America: How the Honey Bee Shaped a Nation by Tammy Horn. Go to for a free 30-day trial and download your free title today.   The science of how and why this happened isn't entirely settled, but one thing is certain, royal jelly plays a large role. Worker Bees produce royal jelly from...