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Identifying the Types of Wasps and Hornets

Updated on: September 29, 2021

Having unidentified flying creatures around your home is a disturbing situation, especially if you fear it's a stinging insect of any kind. Some of the most common invaders who build nests and are often confused are hornets and wasps. Although hornets are a subset of wasps, there are different hornets species and different wasps.

What are the different types of wasps and hornets? There are many insect species like the giant hornet, Asian hornet, Asian giant hornet, solitary wasps, potter wasp, cicada killer wasp, digger wasp, sand wasp, spider wasp, social wasp, and a slew of other stinging insects. These insects may be unfamiliar since the most typical types we always encounter at home are the common wasp, bumble bee, honey bee, native bees, sweat bee, solitary bee, and hornet.

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Identifying Wasps and Hornets Species

PestAppearanceNestThreat
Bumble bee Within ¼ to 1 inch in size, have black and yellow markings, and an overall hazy look.Bumble bees build their bumble bee nests out of pollen clumps, generally in the ground or a dense grass clump, and frequently in an empty mouse nest.A bumble bee is considered a helpful insect because it pollinates flowers. Nevertheless, they can sting. If a nest is found in or near a structure, then control is needed.
Carpenter beeWithin 1/2 to 1 inch in size. They bear a resemblance tobumble bees, but the tip of their abdomen is mainly bare and glistening. 
Carpenter bees don’t linger in nests or colonies. Rather, they veered into the woods, where they produce galleries for rearing their young. Carpenter bees opt for decaying or dried wood to new or painted wood.Carpenter bees are a dangerous property threat and can cause real harm over time if they’re not killed. Male carpenter bees are territorial and fly in one's face aggressively, but they have no stinger and these behaviors are only for show. Female carpenter bees, on the other hand, possess a potent sting, which is seldom used.
Honey beeWithin 1/2-5/8 inch in size and orangish-brown or black. Honeybees are social insects and exist as groups in hives, with mature colonies of 20,000 to 80,000 individuals.A honeybee isn’t aggressive and doesn’t search for something to attack. Instead, it’s defensive and will attack only whatever seems to threaten the honey bee colony.
Baldfaced hornetLargely black, with a predominantly white face.A bald faced hornet builds aerial nests out of paper cartons. The nests are typically in exposed locations such as trees. The nests can be quite large and expand to 14 inches in diameter and 24 inches in length.Some believe that bald faced hornets are beneficial insects since they control many pest insect species. However, if their nest is found near a structure, it can still be a cause for concern.
European hornet Big in size, between ¾ and more than 1 inch. They’re brown with yellow abdominal lines and a pale face. A European hornet would make paper carton nests that are typically covered in a brown paper envelope that they use to protect themselves. The hornet nest can be seen in barns, attics, hollow trees, outbuildings, and hollow walls of houses.A European hornet is deemed a helpful insect because they control many pest species.  However, if their nest is found near a structure, control is assured.
Mud Dauber WaspLong and slender, normally black, and may have pale markings or a metallic glow. Mud daubers are actually solitary wasps and don’t reside in colonies. Instead, a female wasp constructs a mud nest. Many short mud tubes, ordinarily about 1 inch long, are built side by side. A mud wasp would usually build a ground nest in areas like porch ceilings, under eaves, garages and sheds, protected building walls and attics, and barns.They’re deemed helpful insects because they control spiders. However, if their wasp nest is located near human activity, control is assured.
Velvet AntIn spite of their name, velvet ants aren’t ants at all but are types of wasps. Female velvet ants are hairy and black, sometimes with bright red, orange, yellow or white areas. Males are less fuzzy and more off in color but have wings, unlike females.Velvet ants often linger in the kinds of nests used by wasps and ground-nesting bees. In separate cases, they create nests in open or sandy soil.Velvet ants are seldom called "cow killers" because of their very potent sting. Female velvet ants are the only ones that have stingers.
Paper Wasp/Northern Paper WaspA type of wasp species is brownish with yellow or reddish markingsPaper wasps take their name from the paper-like substance of which they produce their nest. A paper wasp nest is ordinarily umbrella-like in shape and is never enclosed in an envelope. Nests are often seen hanging from twigs and branches of trees and shrubs, as well as porch roofs, door moldings, eaves, deck floor joints, rails, etc.If a paper nest is touched, there’s a high possibility you’ll get stung, although paper wasps are typically not an intrusive type of wasp. Paper wasps are deemed helpful insects because they control many pest insect species. Nevertheless, if their nest is located near a house, control is assured.
YellowjacketIt possesses a yellow and black pattern and is within 3/8 to 5/8 inches.A yellow jacket resides in nests composed of paper cartons. One yellow jacket nest will have many rounded paper combs, with one connected beneath another and covered with an envelope of many layers. Depending on the species, the nest may be near the ground, such as on plant roots, trunks, grove, or aerial, and attached to shrubs, bushes, houses, garages, or sheds.Yellowjackets are hesitant to sting unless their nests are approached. Hence, yellowjackets are deemed helpful insects because they control many pest insect species. Nevertheless, if their nest is found near a structure, control is assured.
European paper waspBlack wasps have a yellow appearance. They also have rings along the abdomen and spots in different areas on the clypeus (face) and stomach. European paper wasp lives in warm and terrestrial habitats, including scrub, forest, and meadow biomes. They live in urban, provincial, and agricultural areas. They manage to remain close to human civilization because they nest in human buildings. European paper wasps are mobile and travel by flying and walking. They’re social and exist in powerful hierarchies between the queen and the workers, including the working wasps.

Where Do Wasps and Hornets Live?

The location of their nest can be beneficial when it comes to identifying wasp and hornet infestations. Having an idea of where to look could help you avoid accidentally disturbing a colony, which usually provokes the pests to come after you. 

Normally, hornets like to create their nests in high areas like lofts, treetops, under roofs, decking, sheds, garages, hollow tree logs. Unfortunately, this solitary wasp also favors enclosed spaces. These can be old, abandoned rodent burrows found in backyards, fields, and parks. Hornets that create their nests in the ground cause a real danger to people. Hornet and yellow jacket nests built in areas with a lot of people run the risk of getting walked on. This will cause the hornets to attack.

Wasp nests are typically made in sheltered spots with an easy way to the outside. You can usually find wasp nests in roof spaces, wall cavities, in bird boxes under eaves, sheds, or garages. To find a wasp nest, watch the flight path of the returning worker wasps.

A hornet's nest is formed from saliva and wood pulp they chew and construct into a nest. Usually, hornet nests have a teardrop shape and can grow as much as the size of a basketball when finished. A common hornet nest has hexagonal combs, a single entrance, and an external covering.

One of the most common wasp species, the paper wasp (European paper wasp), likes to build large, exposed nests where the combs are visible. A paper wasp nest is often compared to an upside-down umbrella and is usually built-in in the dark, protected areas like the eaves of a house or the end of an open pipe.

Learn More: Guide to Wasp and Hornet Traps

Are There Dangers of Having Wasps and Hornets in Your Home?

These stingers frequently avoid conflict with humans but will aggressively defend their nest and food sources. Wasp sting and hornet stings can be health-threatening to people who are allergic to their venom.

Always avoid killing a hornet anywhere near its ground nest, as the distress pheromones it releases have a good chance of triggering an attack. Be sure to immediately get rid of anything that touches the pheromones from the area. Hornets can misrepresent the odor from some perfumes and other volatile chemicals, wrongly initiating an attack.

Learn More: How to Get Rid of Hornets Naturally

Leave the Pest Control to the Experts

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No matter which stinging insect is present, you shouldn’t attempt to handle the pests alone. Approaching a hornet nest or honey bee hive could induce these pests to protect their colony. It's always a better idea to seek the help of skilled professionals who can identify and safely remove these stinging pests before they overrun your home.
If you’re worried about wasps or hornets lurking around you, your home, and your family, get in touch with PermaKill Exterminating today and see what our team of pest control experts can do to keep your sacred place and business free from all these stinging intruders.

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