This is a common question, and yes, bees and wasps are related. It might even be said that a bee is a hairy wasp!
Both bees and wasps belong to the insect order Hymenoptera, and also to the suborder, Apocrita. The suborder Apocrita includes wasp-waisted insects that also have grub-like larvae that develop within a host species, gall or nest.
In fact, the consensus is that bees evolved from wasps.
author of Field Guide to Bees of Great Britain and Ireland also states:
notes that bees (and also ants) are actually specialized wasps, and interestingly,
certain hunting wasps are more closely related to bees than they are to other types
of wasps. These are wasps of the Crabonidae
(e.g. digger wasps) and Sphecidae (sand wasps).
The image that many people have of a bee is actually stereotypical of just one type: the bumble bee (Bombus).
Given the diversity in appearance, and that bees and wasps are related, it’s no surprise then, that misidentification between the two can occur, especially when the image that so many people have of a bee is limited to one type.
non-scientists, confusion can easily arise with fairly common species.
Below is a species of nomad bee (Nomada) - the Gooden's Nomad Bee, Nomada goodeniana.
Nomad bees are very wasp-like in appearance. They are cleptoparasitic bees that target other bee species (the host).
In doing so, the cleptoparasite's offspring feed off the food supplies intended for that of the host. Nomad bees typically lurk outside bee nests (often Andrena – mining species), then enter and lay an egg inside a nest cell. The emerging nomad bee grub kills the host’s offspring and snaffles the food intended for it.
Below is the cleptoparasitic nyssonine wasp, Nysson spinosus (the Large-spurred digger wasp). It behaves in a similar way to the nomad bee species described above, but it targets a harmless wasp species.
Below is the host wasp species it targets, a member of the Crabonidae family, Argogorytes mystaceus (commonly known as the Field Digger Wasp).
A key difference however, is that whereas most bees provide food for their young in the form of nectar and pollen, wasps – including the Field digger wasp, provide food for their grubs in the form of other small invertebrates, such as bug nymphs.
However, as always, there are exceptions on both sides!
Wool carder bees
Another type of bee that can be mistaken for a wasp include wool carders that have more yellow on their bodies.
The similarity between wasps and bees can even sometimes result in misidentification for experienced scientists. A bee called Neolarra was originally thought to be a wasp when it was first discovered by scientists.
For further information about general differences between bees and wasps, see my page: What's The Difference Between Bees, Wasps And Hornets?
For general background about how bees evolved from wasps, see may page: Wasps vs bees.