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Wasps: information and resources

Wasps are most common in the late summer and early fall. They are famous for their aggressive behavior and intense stings. The most well-known types of wasps are yellow jackets and hornets, but there are more wasp species, making proper identification a key factor in picking the right treatment method.

Knowing the different wasp species and understanding their characteristics and behaviors will help in identifying which wasp species is invading your property and what control method should be put into place. If you’re experiencing a problem with wasps on your property, contact us.

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Wasp control and removal

What do wasps look like?

  • Size: 1/3" to 2
  • Color: Combinations of yellow, red, brown, or black
  • Body: Pointed lower abdomen that is separated from the thorax

Other wasps you could see


Wasp species

There are many different species of wasps throughout the world. Below are four of the most common in the United States.

Paper wasps

Paper wasps (Polistes spp.) are approximately one inch long and are often brightly colored to discourage any would-be predators or nest raiders. They can be identified by their upside-down umbrella-shaped nest that is not surrounded by a paper shell.

Yellow jackets

Yellow jackets (Vespula and Dolichovespula spp) range in size from 3/8 to 5/8 inch long, with queens being significantly larger. Their nests may be underground, inside a structural void, or hanging from a tree branch or structural overhang.

Bald-faced hornets

Bald-faced hornets (Dolichovespula maculata) are larger, with workers up to 3/4 inch long. They are an aerial yellow jacket so their nests are found only hanging from tree branches or structural overhangs.

European hornets

European hornets (Vespa crabro) are the largest well-established hornet in North America, reaching lengths of one to one and a half inches. Their nests are found only in voids such as hollow trees or hollow soffits.

While it is most likely you'll come across the wasps above, there are other wasps that you may encounter. Cicada killer wasps and northern giant hornets (also known as the murder hornet and formerly the Asian giant hornet) get a lot of press, but are less common. If you think you're seeing these wasps, give us a call.

What you need to know about wasps

Wasp nests and their behavior and characteristics can vary depending on the species and if they are classified as social or solitary. Understanding the differences can help you in identifying which type of wasp is on your property.


Social wasp colonies have a queen, who can reproduce and lay eggs, and many worker wasps. Some workers are fertilized and can reproduce, while others die off. Colonies may consist of anywhere from 25 to over 100 wasps throughout the season. Most social colonies are annual and die off at the end of the season.

Learn more: What is the purpose of wasps?


Every wasp starts out as an egg, but the method by which they are born depends on the species. A female social wasp will fertilize the eggs and they will hatch as workers, resulting in more reproductive males and females being born. Non-fertilized eggs will hatch into males and cannot reproduce. In the winter, the males die and the females hibernate and build their nests to start the process over again.

Solitary wasps lay a smaller amount of eggs since they have tinier nests, and parasitoids use a host, which is typically a spider, to lay their eggs and reproduce.

Learn more: How long do wasps live?


Wasps are attracted to sugary foods and foods that are high in protein. Most wasps are omnivorous and feed on a variety of different foods. They will feed on insects and spiders, but also love sugary and sweet substances, like fruit and nectar.


Most wasp species build their nests away from the elements, which is why they are often found in overhangs, eaves, roofs of houses, and trees. Wasps prefer to build their nests high in hard-to-reach areas to stay safe from predators.

Wasp species build different types of nests.

  • Paper wasp nests are shaped like an upside-down umbrella and rarely get larger than six to eight inches across. They are home to a few dozen paper wasps.
  • Yellow jacket nests are made of chewed wood fibers that envelop the nest into an upside-down teardrop shape. They start off at about the size of a golf ball and can get up to a few feet across by the fall.
  • Hornets build their nests in tree branches and under eaves. Hornet nests can grow to be the size of a basketball, but they grow in proportion to the colony inside.

Learn more about wasp nests:

Wasp nest removal mistakes

Do decoy wasp nests work?

Harmful insect stinging striped wasp

Wasp stings

Wasps are very well-known for their painful stings. They sting when they feel threatened or when they are agitated. They will use their stinger as a defense mechanism. Their venom delivers an extreme amount of pain that is strong enough to make whatever is bothering them leave them alone. The venom can even paralyze their prey.

Wasp stings can be dangerous. The skin around the sting may become swollen and very painful to touch. Allergic reactions can cause severe swelling and other life-threatening symptoms. If you have extreme swelling or trouble breathing, seek medical attention immediately.

Read more about wasp stings:

8 ways to prevent wasp stings

How to have a sting-free summer

Frequently asked questions

Are wasps aggressive?

Wasps are aggressive when they feel threatened or when they are agitated. They become more aggressive later in the summer and into the fall as they are preparing for the winter and working to protect their queen.

Learn more: Where do wasps go in the winter?

How did I get wasps?

Wasps search for food and the perfect place to build their nest. If you have wasps around your home, your property might offer one or both of those things. If wasps are getting inside your home, they are probably entering through tiny openings in the structure of your house or in your screens. Repairing these openings will lower your risks of having wasps indoors.

Learn more: Take back your home from stinging insects

What happens when wasps sting you?

When a wasp stings you it injects venom into you. This venom causes the pain you feel which is the wasp’s defense mechanism. Wasp stings are painful at first, but you may not see a mark right away. Soon after, the area may turn red and have some swelling. If swelling becomes severe, seek medical attention.

Unlike bees, wasps do not die after they sting you. Their stinger is designed to be used multiple times.

Learn more about stings: The essential guide to wasp.

What kills wasps instantly?

There are DIY wasp control methods, however, we do not recommend attempting these methods to kill wasps. Wasps can cause severe pain with their stingers, so controlling them should be left to the professionals who have the right tools and equipment to eradicate them. Contact us if you have wasps on your property.

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