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Wasp species

There may be hundreds of types of wasps found around the world, but only a few of these species are seen as real pests here in the U.S. Understanding their habits, lifecycle and appearance can help to identify the best form of wasp control for your business.

The following is a list of common wasp species found in the U.S.:

Read on to learn more.

Bald-faced hornets

Bald-faced hornets are active from spring through the fall, primarily during the daylight hours. Inseminated queens overwinter and then begin to nest in spring. These insects feed on flower nectar, fruit pulp, tree sap and a variety of insects. Their enclosed aerial nests are made out of woody materials, typically in dense high branches in the canopy of a tree. Nests are also built on overhangs, utility poles, buildings, sheds and other structures.

At its peak, a bald-faced hornet nest will contain 100-400 hornets. They can sting repeatedly if threatened and potentially inject a large amount of venom. Stings can trigger allergic reactions in humans.

Bald-faced hornets

Appearance

  • Color: Black with a mostly white pattern on face
  • Size: Workers are ½”- ⅝”, queens are up to ¾”  
  • Body: Long and smooth

European hornets

European hornets are found in 31 U.S. states. They are omnivores, so they consume insects such as bees and flies as well as tree sap and leaves. To get the tree sap, they have to strip the bark, which can damage trees and shrubs.

European hornets prefer to build nests in dark locations, but if one is not available, they’ll add extra layers to the nest to keep the light out. Optimal locations are hollow walls or trees, barns, attics, and even abandoned beehives. Like other species, European hornet workers will guard the nest, stinging any perceived threats repeatedly.

European hornets

Appearance

  • Color: Brown body with yellow stripes and a pale face
  • Size: ¾” - 1 ½”
  • Body: Long bodies with two sets of wings

Mud dauber wasps

Unlike other wasp species, mud daubers are solitary wasps, meaning they do not live in colonies. As their name suggests, they build their nests out of mud, but do not defend them. Nests are built on sheltered sites – under eaves, on patio ceilings, in garages or sheds, and on protected building walls. Holes in the nest may indicate that the nest is inactive, but remain cautious. Other wasps may takeover abandoned mud tunnels.

Adult mud daubers feed on plant nectar, honey dew, and body fluids of the spiders they capture. More so than a threat to humans, mud daubers are spider controllers — they rarely sting

Mud dauber wasps

Appearance

  • Color: Black with pale markings or a metallic luster
  • Size: ½” - 1”
  • Body: Slender abdomen with clear or dark wings

Paper wasps

Paper wasps are semi-social. They live in small colonies with no worker caste. They get their name from paper-like material they use to make their umbrella-shaped nests. Nests are hung from porch ceilings, window and door frames, eaves, attic rafters, railings, along with other protected places, and have open uncovered cells where eggs are laid.

Paper wasps are not aggressive by nature, but they will sting if they are disturbed or their nest is bothered. They feed on nectar and other insects including caterpillars and flies.

Paper wasps

Appearance

  • Color: Brownish with yellow markings
  • Size: ⅝” - ¾” 
  • Body: Slender waist and long legs

Yellow jackets

Yellow jacket colonies may contain over 1,000 yellow jackets and workers will defend the nest aggressively. Though nests are mainly built in the ground, you may also find them in trees, shrubs, hollow walls and flooring, or under eaves of buildings.

Though they usually feed on sugary substances like nectar and fruit, larval yellow jackets consume protein, so older yellow jackets go out in search of it. Aggressive numbers come out in late summer, but colonies begin to decline by fall. Only inseminated queens nest over winter. Yellow jackets are primarily visible during the day as they don't see well at night.

Yellow jackets

Appearance

  • Color: Alternating black and yellow bands 
  • Size: Workers are around ½” and queens are up to ¾”  
  • Body: Two sets of wings, narrow waist, lance-like stinger

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How to get rid of wasps

Learn how to effectively get rid of wasps and hornets