How to Identify Hornets and Wasps
Summer is right around the corner, and as temperatures rise, you may begin to see more yellow and black flying insects around your property. But would you be able to identify if it was a wasp or a hornet?
They all look very similar but they have different habits and behaviors. So in this blog post, we’ll talk about their differences so you can better identify these stinging insects next time you’re outside.
What is a Wasp?
Wasps are part of the Vespidae family, which also includes hornets, yellow jackets, and paper wasps. Wasps are long, thin, and come in a variety of colors, including black and yellow, and even orange. They have three sets of legs, strong mandibles, and a stinger which they can use multiple times on their victims. Wasps build paper nests out of wood fibers and are aggressive if provoked. They also release a hormone that will alert others there is danger and to attack.
The Common Wasps in the Pacific Northwest
Entomologists believe there are more than a hundred thousand different types of wasps around the world. But there are generally four different types you may encounter here in the Pacific Northwest. Those include: yellow jackets, paper wasps, mud daubers, and bald-faced hornets.
Yellow jackets are the most common wasp species in the PNW. They are about a ½” long with black and yellow stripes down their abdomen. They have a narrow waist and three pairs of legs. These stinging insects live in round paper nests — which could be ariel or near the ground.
Paper wasps are brownish in color with red or yellow markings. They’re around an inch long with slender waists. Although they’re less aggressive than yellow jackets, they will sting if you’re really close to them. Paper wasps construct umbrella-shaped paper nests near eaves, decks, trees, and more.
Mud daubers are the least aggressive out of this group. They’re typically a single color, either black or blue but can also come with markings. They have very unique, slender waists and rarely sting. Mud dauber’s nests are mud tube nests that are usually near eaves, in attics, or under bridges.
Bald-faced hornets are mostly black in color with white markings. These stinging insects build their nests out of paper carton, generally away from human activity. They are also less aggressive than yellow jackets.
While not very common to the Pacific Northwest, it is important that we mention the Asian Giant Hornet, nicknamed the, “Murder Hornet.” This stinging insect is the largest hornet in the world, ranging in size from 1.5” to 2”! It has a giant yellow-orange face and a yellow and black banded thorax. Although the murder hornet is not native to North America, there have been recent sightings of them in Washington State.
These stinging insects were given the nickname, “Murder Hornets” because they kill honeybees to give to their growing young. As with the rest of the Vespidae family, murder hornets are also aggressive and will not hesitate to sting a person.