Is a Bee an Insect, a Bug or Something Else?
While it may seem like an easy question to answer, many people do ask. Is a Bee an Insect? And, why would we not automatically accept this honey bee fact? Aren’t bees bugs? And most bugs are insects. So why the confusion?
Scientific classification of living things is based on various similarities and differences between them. A general classification system is in place but researchers sometimes disagree.
Insects are members of the Animal Kingdom of Scientific Classification. They are classified in a hierarchical system: Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species .
Confusion in the classification of living things is nothing new. It is not unusual for something to be classified in one category and then moved to another in a few years.
Also, the common names for some creatures add more mystery to the topic. Take the Butterfly for instance. A Butterfly is not a fly. It is a member of the Order – Lepidoptera. This classification include butterflies and moths but not true flies.
Confused yet? It can be especially confusing when classifying insects that come from so many different species. This is the beauty of life – diversity.
In our Scientific Classification system, the second level is Phylum. In our search for the bee, we are looking at the Phylum – Arthropod.
Arthropods have segmented bodies, exoskeletons (instead of skin) and at least 3 pair of legs. A quick look into honey bee anatomy confirms these to be characteristics of our bees.
The next level is Class. The Class Insecta includes all the insects in the world. And, there are a lot of members in this group.
Under the Insecta class, insects are divided into at least 29 orders. This is based most often on the similarities and differences in physical characteristics.
In the US, the most common orders of insects are:
- Coleoptera – beetles
- Diptera – flies
- Hymenoptera – ants, wasps, bees
- Lepidoptera – moths and butterflies
What is an Insect?
Members of the Class – Insecta, have the following characteristics
- 3 pair of legs
- 3 distinct body parts or segments
Some entomologists (scientists who study insects) assert that an insect should also have external mouth parts and a pair of antenna.
Hmmm… this description sure sounds like our honey bee – doesn’t it?
Yes, identification is confirmed. Bees are indeed insects.
Is a Bee a Bug?
Many people tend to group everything that flies and can sting under the name of bees. However, we know that many other “non-bee” insects fly and sting.
Members of the wasp and hornet families are the first to come to mind. Wasps are insects in the Class – Insecta with bees. Yet, wasps are different than bees.
Bees vs Bugs
We may often hear honey bees called bugs. But, is a bee a bug? No, actually bees are not true bugs. Insects that are true bugs belong to the Order Hemiptera.
One of the major differences between bugs and bees is the structure of their mouth parts. Bees have mouth parts that are designed to suck up and drink liquid food. Honey bees collect plant nectar to make honey.
Bugs have mouth parts that are designed to tear and puncture. Aphids are bugs that feed on plant juices. They must puncture the plant wall to get to the fluid.
Every bug is an insect but not every insect is a bug.
There you have it. A bee is an insect but a bee is not a bug. With over 900,000 different types of insects in the world, we only have 899,999 more to learn about.