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Wasp identification

Identifying wasps can be difficult without professional training. It is very important for the correct species of wasp to be identified as that will help determine the best method of treatment. Wasps can be easily mistaken for other stinging insects like bees.

If you have spotted what you believe may be a wasp nest on your property, do not approach the nest yourself as wasps are dangerous. Contact your local pest control experts at Rentokil at 1-877-690-2215 or schedule a free pest inspection online. A trained Technician will then visit your property and properly identify the pests. 

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What do wasps look like?

What makes a wasp, a wasp? What are the differences between wasps and bees? Wasps are insects that are not ants or bees and belong to the order of Hymenoptera or the suborder Apocrita. There are over 4,000 wasp species in North America but only a few social wasps are commonly considered pests. Unlike bees, wasps are predatory creatures that feed on other insects. 

There are also some physical traits that help distinguish wasps from bees. 

  • Waist - The thin waistline of wasps is one of the most noticeable physical features that are different from bees. Wasp abdomens narrow before connecting to the thorax unlike bees.  

  • Body Hair - Bees tend to have much more body hair than wasps. While some wasps species have visible body hair, they have much less in comparison to bees. 

  • Size of Colonies - While some species of both wasps and bees are considered "social' stinging insects that live in colonies, bee colonies and grow to be much larger than wasp colonies. The largest wasp colonies rarely reach more than 10,000 members while honeybee hives can hold over 50,000 members.  

How to identify wasp species

There are more than 30,000 species of wasp around the world. However, there are 3 types of wasps that are most commonly encountered by pest control professionals: paper wasps, hornets and yellowjackets. 

Image of a hornet


Hornets are the largest social wasps pest control professionals encounter.  Bald faced hornets have white markings on their head and thorax and build nests that are covered in a papery shell.  European hornets are brownish with orange markings, and build their nests in natural cavities like tree stumps, or in cavities within buildings.  Though not particularly aggressive while out foraging, hornet stings can be very painful.  

Image of a paper wasp

Paper Wasps

Adult paper wasps grow to be 16-20 mm long and tend to have a brownish colouring with yellow markings (although a few paper wasp species have red markings). While their appearance can vary slightly by species, paper wasps have distinctive long legs unlike bees or yellow jackets that have shorter legs.

Image of a yellow jacket

Yellow Jackets

Yellow jackets have black antennae and shorter legs (relative to the paper wasp). Adult yellow jackets grow to be 10-16 mm in length and feature a black and yellow banded abdomen. Yellow jackets build nests that are surrounded by a papery covering, and are commonly found within wall voids or cavities in the ground. 


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