Wasp Identification

Wasp identification guide - species and habitat.

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Wasps are generally seen as a benefit to the environment, they are typically predatory flying insects.  Wasps are a great source of organic pest control on gardens, farms, and crops.  There are commonly two types of wasps species: Solitary wasps and Social wasps.  Social wasps live in large numbers.  Wasp nests are abandoned by late autumn, the queens individually over-winter until spring.

Wasps eat meaty things, including spiders, and sweets.  Wasps can be more hot-tempered than bees, and treated with caution.  If you’re trying to eliminate nuisance wasps attached to your home or near a doorway, it is best done at sunset or very early in the morning.  Wasps found inside the house may indicate a nest is living in the attic.  Below are pictures, identification, and information on common wasps in the U.S. and Canada.

Yellow Jackets

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Yellow Jacket3
Yellow Jacket4

: 1/2 inch in size.
: Social Wasp
: Up to 5,000 members per nest. Nests have multiple layers.
: North east, mid east and south east regions of US, and in Canada.

Often mistaken for honeybees, yellow jackets are just a bit quicker, smaller, and are a brighter yellow vs. the more orange color of honeybees. Honeybees will often be caring noticeable yellow pollen sacks on their back legs, while yellow jackets do not. Yellow jackets can be identified by a rapid side to side flight pattern prior to landing. They are scavengers eating meats and sweets and often found in parks or disrupting picnics or other events.

Yellow jackets are sometimes called meat bees, sweet bees, or ground bees. Nests are generally identified with holes in the ground about golf ball to a softball in size; they defended their home very aggressively. Contrary to the honeybee, yellow jackets can sting repeatedly, they do not lose their stinger, and do not die after stinging. The stings often cause a swelling reaction followed by itching for a few days. Nests start out very small then growing larger untill winter. Seasonally yellow jacket colonies can reach a size of 4,000 and 5,000 workers with a nest of 10,000 and 15,000 cells by August or early September.

Occasionally yellow jackets nest in wall voids and attics, they can end up by accident in the house in large numbers. This is usually preceded by a slow growing wet spot on the ceiling caused by the nest. Every so often, a curious homeowner will poke or push their finger right through the deteriorating ceiling and end up with an unfortunate surprise. It’s generally considered unwise to try to remove an active yellow jackets nest yourself.

Like all wasps, yellow jackets abandoned their nest by late autumn, the queens will often hibernate in attics until early spring. If you have un-wanted yellow jackets in your attic, to discourage them returning, in the winter you can put up some chemical cards labeled for yellowjackets, perhaps one to every 3 studs / bays - based on the label instructions. If you need help feel free to call.



: Up to 2 inches in size
: Social Wasp
: Have up to 700 members per nest.
: Hornets are most popular in the US north east region, and in Canada.

Hornets, or bald faced hornets are commonly identified with black with white stripes, and black with yellow stripes. They can look similar to yellow jackets, but hornets are near twice as long and thicker. Hornets can be slightly less aggressive than yellow jackets. Like most wasps, hornets can sting multiple times with a very strong painful sting.

Hornets build randomly shaped nests from football to basket-ball or larger in size. Hornets can be found on tree branches, hallows, bushes, as well as houses, buildings, attics, and walls. When attached to a structure, or located in a problematic area Bee removal is commonly desired. Like most wasps and bees, hornets are defensive to anything within a close distance to the hive, or nest.

It’s generally considered unwise to try to remove a hornets’ nest without experience. Like wasps, hornets abandon the nest in late autumn; the queens overwinter and may return to the same or a nearby location the following spring to build a new nest. Like most wasps, hornets eat meaty things & sweets. As such, hornets are considered a natural organic form of pest control to gardens and crops.

Paper Wasps

Paper Wasp Nest2

: 3/4 to 1-1/2 inch long.
: Social wasps
: Nest sizes generally consist of 5 to 30 wasps.
: Most popular in West and South east regions of the US and in Mexico.

Paper wasps - long with yellow and rusty brown or black stripes. Paper wasp nests can be identified out in the open and under the eave structure of the roofline, the nests a grayish paper-like material honeycomb shaped, with the larger nest sizes approaching the size of a tenis racket containing up to 50 wasps per nest. Paper wasps can be confused with hornets which are similar in shape, but hornets typically have larger enclosed hives and paper wasps do not as commonly build nests on trees.

Paper wasps are often found hanging under the eaves, but can also be found in attics, trees, as well as other structures. Paper wasps attack when aggravated and have a painful sting; they can sting multiple times and do not lose there stinger.

Occasionally these wasps are found inside the house. This happens when a nest is living in the attic and perhaps a cieling fixture is allowing light into the attic. In this case the wasp goes to the light thinking it leads back outside but ends up in the house; the wasp will typically hover around looking for an exit. Wasps are much more comfortable navigating inside of a house than honeybees; honeybees simply go straight to the window and buzz until exhausted.

Mud Wasps

Common mud wasps seen here and identified below are: mud daubers, potter wasps, and pollen wasps. These wasps are typically found in the same surrounding areas of each other. Mud Wasps construct their homes from mud or clay. Mud wasps nest in the ground as well as in attics, on walls, structures, and under bridges. Mud wasps are solitary wasps and vary from 1/2 inch to 1 inch in size with relatively small nests. Prior to winter they abandon the mud nests and overwinter until spring time.

Mud Daubers

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: Up to 1 inch long
Wasp Type
: Solitary wasps
: Small nests, perhaps 3 to 20 wasps with tube-like cells.
US Region
: South east and West

Mud daubers have a very compressed alien like look with their skinny needle like waist they are sometimes called thread waist wasps. Mud daubers (also called dirt daubers) are commonly identified by their mud nests which are hard flat oval and tube shaped. Mud daubers nests rang from the size of a peanut to a large lemon but rarely get that thick. The mud dauber species seldom sting and are not protective of their nests. Mud daubers typically attach under eaves, porches, walls and attics. Mud daubers prey on spiders and are said to particularly enjoy black widow spiders.

Potter Wasp

Potter Wasp1
Potter Wasp2

: 1/2 inch long
Wasp Type
: Generally solitary wasps
: Very tiny nest sizes
US Region
: These wasps are located in the South East and West.

Sometimes called mason wasps, potter wasps build "pot" or jug shaped nests less than a size of a lemon. Out of all wasp species, potter wasps have the largest diversity of species, which have been classified into about two hundred groups as shown in wikipedia. potter wasp species.

Pollen Wasp

Pollen Wasp1
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: 3/4 inches long
Wasp Type
: Solitary wasps
: Smaller than average nest size.
US Region
: These wasps are located in the South East and West.

Pollen wasps are sometimes mistaken for yellow jackets because of their size similarity and because they burrow their nests in ground, however pollen wasps differentiate and can be identified by their large clubbed antennas; nests are constructed out of mud and water. Pollen wasps are similar to many solitary bees, they feed their young entirely on nectar and pollen, hence the name "pollen wasp". Rocks or crevices low to the earth also make attractive nesting sites for pollen wasps.

Bees Box

Bee Id Chart

Sometimes wasps are mistaken for bees. Visit this bee identification chart to learn about the most common types of bees. There are many kinds of bee species.

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