What’s the difference between a wasp and a hornet?


When there are yellow and black insects buzzing around your property it can be scary. Also, it’s difficult to determine what kind of infestation you might have. To properly remove any insects problems it’s important to figure out exactly what you’re dealing with.


A wasp can be identified as any insect considered a Hymenoptera and suborder Apocrita. The most common type of wasp is a yellow jacket. They are in the Vespidae family and are eurosocial where they live in a bg nest with an egg-laying queen and non-reproducing workers. Wasps first appeared as a fossil in the Jurassic period.

There are two common types of wasps.

The social wasp constructs a nest using wood pulp , mud, plant secretions and secretions from the wasps themselves. Many materials are collected and constructed into a honeycomb pattern, often surrounded by a protective layer. Locations of nest vary from specie to specie. Yellow jackets prefer to nest in trees and shrubs. Other wasps like to nest in cavities in the ground, spaces under homes, wall cavities or in lofts. Social wasps all live together in the nest.

The solitary wasp forages alone after mating. It only builds a nest for the benefit of its own offspring. Some solitary wasps might nest in small groups, but each wasp is responsible for caring for its offspring. Also, they might build communal nests and each insect will have their own cell. Most adult solitary wasps spend their time preparing nests and foraging for food.

Paper Wasp


It’s kind of confusing because hornets are actually considered wasps. They’re the largest of the eurosocial wasp and look similar to yellow jackets. The most obvious difference in appearance is a large top margin of the head and a rounded abdomen behind the waist. A hornet is considered a social wasp, so they build communal nests by chewing wood to make a papery pulp. Many build their nests in trees and shrubs, but can be found in other cavities. Hornets are known as aggressive insects especially when threatened.

In the spring a female hornet known as the queen selects a place to begin building a nest. She builds cells arranged in horizontal layers named combs. She lays an egg in each cell. After about a week the egg hatches and the larvae undergoes its five stages. The first generation of workers will take over the duties of the queen. Once the nest is complete the queen begins to produce reproductive hornets and the process begins again.

The main difference between hornets and wasps.

The best way to tell the difference between hornets and wasps is by colony size. A wasp colony tends to be smaller with fewer than 100 individuals. Hornet colonies are much larger. It’s quite difficult to tell the difference between the insects by appearance. Their nest shape and placement is another good indicator.

Wasps build nests that are open and suspended from solid objects in protected area such as an eaves or covered porch. Hornets build large fully enclosed nests on trees or in shrubs. Both wasps and hornets will become aggressive if they feel their home is threatened. 

Get rid of wasps in Hamilton.

Wasps and hornets can be dangerous especially for people with allergies or young children. If you see a lot of wasps around your property there’s probably a nest nearby. A the first sign of any problem contact Truly Nolen Pest Control.