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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

Description

  • 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

Mud Dauber Wasp

(Chalybion, Sceliphron)

Mud Dauber Wasp

What Do Mud Daubers Look Like?

  • Mud daubers are black and yellow or metallic blue or black 
  • Mud daubers can measure in at ½- 1” with six legs 
  • They have antennae and their body has a long, slender waist

Mud Dauber Lifecycle

  • Mud daubers undergo four stages of development - egg, larvae, pupae and adult 
  • Female mud daubers prey on spiders and paralyze them to provide food for offspring 
  • Paralyzing the spider prevents harm to the adult wasp and offspring and preserves the body until the larvae are ready to feed on it 
  • Inside the “pipes” or nests are cells that will be sealed off with mud. Each cell contains spiders and a single egg 
  • The female wasps abandons the nest after sealing off the cells

Mud Dauber Behavior

  • Mud daubers are solitary wasps, which means they spend most of their time preparing nests and hunting for food for their young
  • Mud daubers live up to their name. They create tubes out of mud in sheltered areas like eaves, ceilings, garages, attics and sheds. 
  • Mud daubers rarely sting and they can actually be beneficial in keeping away other pests and spiders 
  • Mud daubers have good vision and use landmarks to locate their nest

Ichneumon Wasp

(Megarhyssa macrurus)

Ichneumon Wasp

What Do Ichneumon Wasps Look Like?

  • Ichneumon wasps have a long body and measure in at about 1 ½ inches with long antennas 
  • The colors on ichneumon wasp species can vary. Some are dark colored and others are brightly colored with patterns. Some ichneumon wasp species have black and yellow bands, which make them look like stinging wasps 
  • Females have a long ovipositor which looks like a stinger but it acts like a syringe to deposit eggs into hosts like caterpillars or grubs

Ichneumon Wasp Lifecycle

  • Female ichneumon wasps need a certain species of insect as a host to insert her eggs in 
  • Once the young hatch, they will eat their host 
  • Female ichneumon wasps can be found near tree trunks and use their antennae to see wood-boring insect larvae hiding beneath the bark

Ichneumon Wasp Behavior

  • Ichneumon wasps control pest populations by preying on boll weevils, tomato hornworms and wood boring insects 
  • Adult ichneumon wasps feed on nectar, shrubs and trees 
  • A majority of Ichneumon wasps won’t sting humans

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