Wasps Vs. Hornets: What’s the Difference?

Wasps Vs Hornets Whats the Difference

Many people use the terms “hornet” and “wasp” interchangeably, but doing so is inaccurate. While it is true that all hornets are wasps, it is important to note that not all wasps are hornets.

There are many similarities between wasps and hornets as well as bees. All three types of insects buzz have the propensity to sting and thrive in similar climates. That said, if it looks, sounds and acts like a wasp/hornet, what’s the point of making distinctions in the first place? The differences matter for a number of reasons, the biggest of which is that they can help guide your wasp control decisions.

The Wasp

The term “wasp” is a very broad one that covers more than 100,000 different species across the globe. Wasps are found in every part of the world, except for polar regions, and are typically black and yellow. Most standard non-hornet wasps have a narrow waist and well-defined abdomen.

Broadly speaking, wasps can be divided into two categories, social and solitary. They can then be further divided into three categories: wasp, yellowjacket and hornet.

Most wasp species are solitary and usually use their stings as defence mechanisms. Solitary wasps live alone underground and prey on insects. They also use their stingers to lay their eggs in the victim. The larvae then feed on the insides of the host. Though this is an eerie concept, don’t worry — humans are not prey to wasps.

Social wasps act a lot like honeybees in that they live in large colonies of 100+ members. These colonies live in aerial paper nests and are headed by a queen, who is responsible for laying eggs and keeping the colony going.

The Hornet

Hornets tend to be the standard wasp’s chubbier cousin. Many hornet species do not have the trademark yellow and black striping common in the wasp family but instead feature white and black markings. While all wasp species are venomous, the hornet is more so because of its larger body. This makes them more dangerous than other species of wasp.

Hornets, like bees, are scavengers and predators. While they will mostly leave humans alone when unprovoked, they enjoy eating butterflies, caterpillars, flies and other overpopulated insect species. Like bees, hornets are excellent pollinators and contribute to the greater good of the environment.

Though great for the environment and generally unaggressive, hornets can pose a danger to humans. Because they have considerably more venom than the average bee or smaller species of wasp, their stings are much more painful than the latter two. Unlike bees, their stingers do not fall out after attacking an animal or person, and they sting repeatedly until killed. For many homeowners (especially those with small children), this is reason enough to invest in hornet control.

The Yellowjacket

Then there are yellowjackets. These are perhaps the most aggressive of all wasp species. These particular species build ground nests that are made up of hundreds of members. Sometimes, the nests can become so large that they create “sinkholes.” If you’re unlucky enough to step on a ground nest, you may find yourself at the mercy of hundreds of angry wasps that will continue to sting until they grow tired.

Many people mistake yellowjackets for honeybees, as they’re pint-sized compared to other wasp species. Their bodies are less than half an inch long, making them difficult to identify.

The Importance of Wasp Control 

Most wasps are not aggressive unless provoked. However, that does not mean that you want a colony living on your property. A wasp or hornet may become angry at even the most minor of slights, such as you accidentally bumping its food source or hitting it with your hand. This can lead to painful or, in extreme cases, life-threatening stings. You can avoid injury entirely by investing in professional wasp control. Contact our team to learn more.