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Types Of Wasps

Each wasp species has their own unique characteristics. What's the difference between a yellowjacket and a paper wasp? Or a bald-faced hornet? We've outlined fundamental differences to help to identify which wasp species you may be experience difficulties with.

Yellowjacket Wasp

(Vespula)

Yellowjacket

Appearance

  • 10 to 16 mm in length
  • Queen and worker wasps can be identified by abdominal patters
  • Males have seven abdominal patters while females have six 
  • Their bodies don't contain hair compared to bees

Lifecycle

  • The queen yellowjacket builds a new, paper nest which is where she lays her eggs
  • The queen emerges between late February through early April
  • The queen feeds larvae between 18-20 days
  • After the eggs hatch, they are fed until they are grown, adult yellowjackets 
  • A yellowjacket colony may contain 1,000 or more workers. 
  • All workers are sterile females.

Habits

  • Yellowjackets are social creatures. They live in colonies with workers, males and a queen
  • They are attracted to colorful clothing and perfume. So, it's best to avoid wearing both on a warm, summer day.
  • Queens never choose an old nest to re-habit.
  • Yellowjackets are known to be aggressive and will defend their colony
  • They will sting if threatened

Bald-Faced Hornet

(Dolichovespula maculata)

Bald-Faced Hornet

Appearance

  • The bald-faced hornet is part yellowjacket, part wasp 
  • It has ivory-white markings on the face and body 
  • It measures in at 13mm-20mm in length 
  • The queen is the largest bald-faced hornet in the colony

Lifecycle

  • The queen collects cellulose from rotting wood and chews it to make a paper-like material to create the nest.
  • The nest is grey and can reach up to 2 feet in height
  • She then creates cells within the nest to lay her eggs
  • As the weather gets warmer, the colony grows to 100-400 workers.

Habits

  • The bald-faced hornet can be found throughout North America and are very aggressive and may sting repeatedly if provoked.
  • The bald-faced hornet can squirt venom from their stinger into the eyes of nest intruders, which can cause temporary blindness.
  • They are omnivores, feeding on flies, caterpillars and spiders.

Paper Wasp

(Polistes dominula)

Paper Wasp

Appearance

  • Black body with yellow markings
  • 0.7 to 1.0 inch long 
  • Often confused with the yellowjacket

Lifecycle

  • In the spring, fertilized queens select a nesting site and begin building their nest
  • Sterile workers help build the nest, feed young and protect the nest 
  • A mature paper wasp nest may have 20-30 adults 
  • Beginning in the late summer, the queen stops laying eggs
  • Once cooler weather arrives, males and workers die off and fertile females seek shelter elsewhere from the cold

Habits

  • Paper wasps aren't as aggressive as yellowjackets or hornets
  • The Western Paper Wasp is the most common in the Northwest
  • They feed on nectar, caterpillars, flies and beetle larvae 
  • They have a powerful sting, which may cause some to have an allergic reaction
  • They prefer to build nests in sheltered, dark locations

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