PROGRAMS        TEACHERS        KIDS        VIDEOS        GALLERY        ABOUT US        HOME
Home of P.R. Mantis & the BUG-People!
BUGMAN Education
614-450-0BUG (450-0284)
Columbus, OH
prmantis@bugs.org
working Mantis

BUG INFORMATION!

Here are the answers to some interesting questions we have addressed
over the years.

Stay tuned for new BUG Trivia Activities!

- Stings and Other Hurting Things
    -
Which hurts more, honeybee or bumblebee?
    - Why do Honeybees make swarms?
    - Which insect kills the most people?
    - Why does a mosquito bite?
    - What is the difference between flies and wasps?
- Back to Information Pages


What is the difference between Flies and Wasps?

Visitors voted and commented!
(Click here for our answer!)

a few people who got this exactly right!

L Johnson, from Owatonna Jr. High School in  Owatonna MN, and  Tracy Bousselot from Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos TX both know the major difference between a fly and a wasp. Nice job!!!

Flies and wasps are different. Of course, any one species of fly is different from any other species of fly, too. Scientists like to put similar things into groups. This makes it a lot easier to talk about them. One of the most basic groupings in the Class Insecta is the Order. Wasps and flies belong in different orders.

Orders are generally named for the type of wings an insect has. Wing types are often the biggest difference between different Orders, but there are often other differences, too. So, really the big difference between a fly and a wasp is that a fly has two flying wings and two reduced wings and a wasp has four flying wings.

The reduced hind wings of flies are called halteres (pronounced "hall-teers" -- not like the short blouses!). They are used for balance during flight. They spin around in little circles and keep the fly from flipping over and over as it flies. They serve a similar purpose to the propeller on the tail of a helicopter. If a helicopter didn't have that little propeller, it would just spin round and round. So flies, like all winged insects (some species never get wings, but most do), really do have four wings!

It is true, also, that a flies never have a stinger (though some bite pretty painfully), and some kinds of wasps do have stingers – some don't! And only female wasps have stingers. Male bees and wasps never have stingers because a stinger is a modified ovipositor, or egg laying organ (another word with Latin roots!)

One way to recognize a fly or a wasp is by looking at its face. Flies have little, reduced antennae and are usually really hairy. Wasps usually have longer antennae (though not more than half their body length) and smooth, shiny faces - their faces look like robots or machines. Take a good look next time you see one!

As for size, color and behavior, it is often impossible to tell the difference between flies and wasps. Many kinds of flies are extremely convincing mimics. A mimic looks (and usually acts) very much like something dangerous, but often it is not dangerous itself. It is protected because of the way it looks when it is really defenseless - good idea!

Of course, sometimes the mimic is dangerous (or bad tasting), too. Notice how most bees and wasps have a black-and-yellow or black-and-orange pattern. That's probably not a random coincidence. They get extra protection because potential predators only need to learn one color pattern to indicate danger or bad taste.

This is not a photo of a bumblebee, although it really looks like one. Would you try to catch it in your hands?! Most birds would probably agree with you and pass. This definitely looks like an animal to leave alone. But it is totally harmless! Okay, it's harmless unless you're another bug - especially a bee. This is called a Robber Fly (Family: Asilidae). These guys got their name because of their habit of hanging out on top of bee hives and nabbing bees as they leave the nest – robbing the nest.

So, once again, things are not always as they appear. The morale is: If you're just a defenseless BUG, you have to be tricky!
 

P.S. Another difference that wasn't mentioned above is that flies have "sponging" mouthparts. Instead of chewing or directly sucking up their food, they kinda sop it up with the end of their proboscis, or mouth. There is a totally gross example of this in the 1986 movie The Fly with Jeff Goldblum. (Most flies have to vomit digestive enzymes on solid food in order to be able to sponge it up... yech!) Wasps generally have chewing mouthparts just like us! Thanks to A S from Western High School in  Las Vegas NV for reminding us of that one!  


Back to top