800-837-5520 Call us for a free quote Contact us

Identify different types of wasps

Unlike bees, wasps are predatory creatures that feed on other insects. They are close cousins to bees, but are a separate and distinct species. Wasps are different in appearance and temperament. They tend to be very territorial and will defend their nests fiercely and at a much greater distance.

There are more than 30,000 species of wasp around the world but there are three types that are most commonly encountered by pest control professionals: hornets, paper wasps, and yellow jackets.

Click one of the species to jump down to more information about it:


Bald faced hornet

Bald faced hornet

Bald faced hornets are found throughout the United States and usually appear in late summer. They resemble yellow jackets with their black bodies and predominantly white-patterned face. They build nests that are covered in a papery shell and are often found on trees, overhangs, and shrubs. Their nests are built at least three feet off the ground, however, they can be as high as 60 feet.

Like ants, hornets are social creatures. They will go after anyone or anything that enters their space. Hornets have smooth stingers that allow them to attack over and over again, and will sting repeatedly if they feel threatened.


  • Worker: ½’ - ⅝” long; Queen: ¾” long
  • Black with a white pattern on most of the face
  • Smooth body
  • Six legs
European Hornet

European hornet

Also known as the giant hornet, European hornets are mostly brown with yellow stripes and a pale face.  They appear in late summer and build their nests in natural cavities like tree stumps, or in cavities within buildings. Unprotected nests are usually covered in a brown envelope made from chewed up, decayed wood. European hornets are typically not aggressive, but they can sting repeatedly. They prey on a variety of large insects like grasshoppers, flies, yellow jackets and honey bees. They also eat tree sap, fruit, and honeydew.


  • 1” - 1 ½” long
  • Brown with yellow abdominal stripes with a pale face
  • Two pairs of wings
  • Six legs
Wasp Lemonade Wasp Close-up

European wasp and English wasp

European and English wasps both have a bright yellow and black banded abdomen. The difference between the two is that the European wasp has black dots in its yellow bands and on its face, but the English wasp doesn’t. Both of these wasps prefer to build nests in sheltered locations such as lofts, garages, and wall cavities, with easy access to the outside. Outside they may nest in old rodent burrows, hollow trees, and bushes. European and English wasps feed on insects, nectar, and sweet foods. They are more aggressive than bees and will attack you if you disturb their nest. They will sting repeatedly if they feel threatened.


  • ½” - ⅝” long
  • Yellow and black body - markings vary according to species
  • Two pairs of clear wings with the first pair being larger
  • Black antennae
mud dauber

Mud dauber

Just as their name implies, mud daubers are solitary wasps that construct nests or brood chambers from the mud. There are many species of mud daubers and they are commonly found throughout the United States. Besides its unique nest, one of the easiest ways to identify a mud dauber is by its thread-like waist separating its abdomen and thorax, which helps differentiate it from other types of wasps. They are not aggressive and typically do not sting unless their nest is directly threatened.

Mud daubers live in nests constructed by the female population of the colony. They build cylindrical nests that look much like an organ pipe. Nests consist of short mud tubes constructed side by side and are most often located in shaded areas like porch ceilings, under eaves, or in sheds and barns. The female mud dauber collects spiders, paralyzes them with her sting, and then places them inside mud chambers within the nest. She deposits an egg on top of one of the spiders in the chamber before sealing it off. The larval wasp hatches and feeds on the spiders provided, molting several times before pupating and transforming into an adult wasp. When nests appear to have round holes on the outside, this is an indication the wasps have emerged and the nest is inactive.

Mud daubers do not defend their nests and are rarely aggressive. These wasps are beneficial insects as they reduce spider populations. Although mud daubers aren’t dangerous, they can still be a nuisance when they are nesting in or near your home. If a nest is found on your property, nest removal should always be handled by a professional wasp control company, as any wasp handling can be dangerous.


  • 1” long
  • Yellow or black; very thin waist. Easily identified by their nest.
  • 6 legs
  • Antennae
Paper wasp

Paper wasp

Paper wasps get their names from the umbrella-shaped paper nests they build. Their nests are found in the yards of residential homes hanging from twigs, branches, porch ceilings, and more. Paper wasps themselves are mostly brown with yellow markings while a few paper wasp species have red markings. They feed on nectar and other pests, including spiders, caterpillars, and flies.

Paper wasps likes living in sheltered places, which means they may look for nesting spots in or around your home where they’re not easy to detect. While the insects are mainly beneficial to the planet because they aid in pollination (similar to bees), they’re still bad news for their aggressive stinging habits.

Every year, a paper wasp colony starts as a single queen. Once she locates a good nesting spot, she’ll build a small comb nest in which to raise her first larvae. After the larvae mature, they begin to search for food, increase the size of the nest, and take care of the queen’s new young. Before you know it, the small nest on your property may grow into an out-of-control problem.


  • 5/8" - 1" long
  • Brown with yellow markings, some with reddish markings
  • Smooth body with long legs
  • Smooth stinger that retract into their body
Yellow Jackets

Yellow jackets

Yellow jackets are very common in the summer and fall. They feature a black and yellow banded abdomen and can be aggressive, but are a little slower to sting than other wasp species. However, they will sting repeatedly if they continue to feel threatened.

Yellow jackets build nests that are surrounded by a paper-like covering made from chewed cellulose. Their nests are mainly built in the ground, however they can also be in hollowed out trees, under eaves, in attics, and in wall voids. They feed on insects and sugary substances like flower nectar and fruits. Most homeowners find yellow jackets to be quite the pest, however their diet actually makes them integral to garden pest control.


  • Worker - ⅜”-⅝” long; Queen - ¾” long
  • Alternating black and yellow bands
  • Two sets of wings
  • Smooth body
  • Six legs

Find your local branch

We were unable to access your location. Adjust your browser settings or enter your place or zip code above

Live pest-free all year

Start living pest-free today with PestFree365+. Ehrlich Pest Control protects your home from 36 different pests for the ultimate peace of mind.