Types of Wasps and How to Identify Them (Pictures and Names)

Wasps are tiny insects with yellow bands on their black bodies. A pair of membranous wings with six spindly legs, a slender, smooth body with a narrow waist, and a slender, smooth body with a narrow waist are all typical characteristics of wasps. Wasp species mimic bees, and both wasps and bees are important pollinators that can cause a painful sting.

It is important to identify the species of wasps because some are more harmful than others. The bald-faced hornet (Dolichovespula maculata) protects its nest by swarming in black and white wasps. Wasps that sting without warning are known as yellowjackets (Vespula maculifrons). The Polistinae black and yellow paper wasp, on the other hand, is a passive and benign creature.

This is a guide that will help you identify wasp species. Recognizing these tiny flying insects as they fly from flower to flower in your garden will be aided by descriptions and pictures of various types of wasps.

How to Identify Wasps

By comparing the shape, size, color, and behavior of wasps, you may identify them. The smooth, slender bodies of most wasp species distinguish them from bees. The thin waist between the thorax and abdomen is an easily recognized characteristic of wasps. Yellow and black wasps are the most common. Some, on the other hand, are black, red, or brown..

Wasp six slender legs are another distinguishing characteristic. Wasp legs might be black, orange, or yellow in color depending on the species. Another way to identify a particular species is by looking at the bi-colored legs of many wasps.

Wasps vs. Hornets

Hornets are a kind of wasp that varies in size and color, as seen in the picture on the left. In comparison to a typical wasp that is 0.4” (1 cm) long or smaller, hornets are giant wasps that can grow to be 1.6″ (3.8 cm). Hornets have black bodies with white rings, whereas wasps have yellow and black bodies.

Wasp species are more aggressive than hornets, despite the fact that wasps and hornets have a bad reputation. A European hornet, for example, might sting you severely. Nevertheless, it almost always attacks to protect the nest. Certain wasp species, on the other hand, may attack without notice.

Wasps vs. Bees

The body shape and appearance of bees and wasps are the most obvious distinctions. Bees have a fuzzy body with a barrel-like appearance rather than a slim figure. Bees, for example, don’t have a wasp-like thin waist.

Facts About Wasps

The order Hymenoptera includes wasps, which are flying winged insects related to bees and ants. The tiny chalcid wasp, which measures 0.005″ (0.139 mm) in size, to the massive female cicada killer wasp, which can be 2″ (5 cm) long. Wasps are mostly solitary creatures, although some species may be found nesting in groups. WASPS are important insects in many ecosystems, despite their reputation for aggressiveness. for example, aid in the pollination of a variety of plants.

Pollen and nectar are stored in the bodies of certain wasps. Figs are pollinated by fig wasps (Agaonidae), which are also important. Some parasitoid wasp species and predator wasp species may help limit the number of garden pests. You may, for example, assist diminish caterpillar populations and the number of ants in your garden by feeding on larvae by encouraging parasitic wasps.

Types of Wasps and How to Identify Them (Pictures) 

Let’s examine the techniques for identifying different types of wasps in further depth. In the summer, you’ll learn about common yellowjackets, as well as tiny harmless wasps that look like flies or ants, that can annoy people.

Paper Wasps (Polistinae)

Paper wasps come in a variety of shapes and sizes, with slender black or dark-brown bodies and yellow bands. The slender waist, orange-tipped antennae, and lengthy brownish wings of paper wasps distinguish them. Paper wasps also dangle their long legs when they fly, unlike yellowjackets.

In North America, there are roughly 300 different species of paper wasps. Due to the shape of their papery nests, black or brown wasps are also known as umbrella wasps. The propensity of paper wasps to build papery nests earned them their name. To make a thin, paper-like substance for nesting, wasps chew on plant fiber or wood. Nests of paper wasps are frequently discovered underneath eaves or on tree limbs in secluded areas of attics.

Paper wasps have a stinger that can deliver a terrible, agonizing sting, as do other wasps. If the nest is threatened, paper wasps will sting. Some individuals may experience a severe allergic response after the sting becomes red and swollen.

Wasp identification: When they fly, paper wasps have a narrow brown or black body, yellow markings, a slender waist, and long dangling legs. Paper wasps are 0.8 to 1.2 inches (2 to 3 cm) long.

Northern Paper Wasp (Polistes fuscatus)

Northern paper wasps have brownish wings, a slender waist, and thin yellow bands. They are dark brown or black wasps with a characteristic slender abdomen. The wasp’s abdomen has bright red spots that help identify the species, which you’ll notice. The wasps may have black bodies with no markings depending on the habitat. From Florida in the south to British Columbia in the north, northern paper wasps can be found all throughout North America’s east.

Wasp identification: The abdomen of the northern paper wasp is yellow with red dots, and it is a slender dark brown wasp. 0.6 to 0.8 inches (1.5 to 2 cm) long, wasps are 0.6 to 1 inch (1.5 cm).

European Paper Wasp (Polistes dominula)

The European paper wasp (Polistes dominula) is a social wasp with a black, yellow-spotted thorax, black and yellow abdomen, orange antennae, and orangey-yellow legs. This species of paper wasp, which is also one of the most aggressive, is one of the most common in the United States. The paper wasp builds papery nests during the spring, when the queen lays eggs and nurtures her offspring.

Wasp identification: European paper wasps have black and yellow bodies with orange antennae and orange wings. 0.3 to 0.5 inches (0.8 to 1.2 cm) long wasps

Black and Yellow Paper Wasp (Polistes Comanchus)

The Polistes Comanchus (Black and Yellow Paper Wasp) has a black thorax and a brilliant yellow abdomen, as one would expect from its name. This species, like all paper wasps, features a narrow waist and black wings between its abdomen and thorax. In the southern United States, black and yellow paper wasps may be found.

Wasp identification: The black thorax, orange antennae, and yellow and orange abdomen with thin brown stripes distinguish the black and yellow paper wasp.

Yellow Paper Wasp (Polistes flavus)

The yellow paper wasp has an orangey-yellow thorax, a yellow abdomen, yellow legs, and brown wings. It is a large vespid wasp with a bright color scheme. The wasp’s vivid yellow color is its most distinguishing characteristic. Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico are home to the yellow wasps.

Wasp identification: Due to its yellow color and orange and brown markings, the yellow wasp is easily identified. The huge yellow wasps may grow to be over 3 inches (8 cm) long.

Guinea Paper Wasp (Polistes exclamans)

Polistes exclamans is a striped-abdomed, black-marked wasp found in Guinea. A thin body, a thin abdomen, and a flattened triangular face are all characteristics of this paper wasp species. Depending on their habitat, Guinea paper wasps come in a variety of colors. The guinea paper wasp’s banded antennae, which are orange, yellow, and black in hue, are an identifying characteristic. Antennae of most paper wasp species are monochromatic.

Wasp identification: The banded slender yellow and orange-brown abdomen, as well as the colorful antennae with yellow tips, may help you identify the Guinea paper wasp. 0.5″ (1.3 cm) and 0.65″ (1.6 cm) wingspan wasps

Red Paper Wasp (Polistes carolina)

The Polistes carolina is a red-colored wasp with black wings and red antennae, as its common name suggests. The red paper wasp isn’t considered an aggressive wasp, despite the fact that it stings. Rather, it favours to construct oval papery nests under eaves or roof overhangs in close proximity to human habitation. Only female red paper wasps have stingers, which they use to sting. Wasps will sting humans if they are attacked, but they normally do not.

Wasp identification: The reddish-brown body, lack of abdominal bands, and black wings distinguish the red wasp from other types of wasps. 1.3 to 1.5 inches (2.5 to 3 cm) long, red wasps are tiny insects.

Yellowjackets (Vespula spp.)

Yellowjackets have black bodies with orangey-yellow bands and are a frequent wasp species. The typical black and yellow wasps that become a pest in gardens are eastern yellowjackets (Vespula maculifrons). Yellowjackets are the most commonly mistaken for bees of all the wasp species.

Honeybees and yellowjackets have similar smooth bodies that distinguish them. Honeybees and bumblebees have a sturdier abdomen and bigger size than wasp wasps.

Some types of hornets look a lot like yellowjackets. Yellowjackets, on the other hand, are little wasps in comparison to the size of huge hornets. Hollows of trees, holes in the ground, or cracks and crevices are all used by yellowjackets to nest.

Wasp identification: The black and yellow striped body, black antennae, and orange or yellow legs distinguish yellowjacket from other insects. The length of a yellowjacket is roughly 0.5 inch (1.2 cm).

Bald-Faced Hornet (Dolichovespula maculata)

The bald-faced hornet is a black and white wasp with black antennae, a flattened black face with a white stripe, and black and white legs. This black wasp isn’t a genuine hornet in the Vespa genus, despite its common name. Despite its black coloration, the bald-faced wasp is a yellowjacket species.

White-faced hornet, white-tailed hornet, bald-faced aerial yellowjacket, and bald-faced wasp are some other names for the bald-faced hornet. North America is home to the black and white wasps. If the nest is threatened, the hornets may become aggressive.

Bald-faced hornets construct huge paper nests with up to 700 wasps. High up in trees, under roof overhangs, or in wall cavities are common places for hanging papery nests to be found. The nests are made up of layered hexagonal combs covered in a papery grey material.

Wasp identification: The black, smooth body, white facial patches, and three distinct white stripes on the abdomen’s tail end of the bald-faced hornet distinguish it from other species. Bald-faced wasps range in length from 0.8 to 1 inch (2 to 2.5 cm).

Giant Ichneumon Wasp (Megarhyssa macrurus)

The big ichneumon wasp has a slender body with yellow and black stripes that gives it a bright appearance. It is known as a “wasp with a long tail.” The giant ichneumon’s tail, or ovipositor, is a distinctive feature. The wasp has a tail-like protrusion that is the same length. Since its tail resembles a stinger, the enormous ichneumon appears to be dangerous. Yet, the long tail of this wasp is utilized by females to deposit eggs under tree bark, rather than for venom delivery.

Wasp identification: The tail of the long-tailed giant ichneumon wasp may be up to 2 inches (5 centimeters) long. The ovipositor is included in the wasps’ length of over 5″ (13 cm). Since they do not have a tail, male wasps in this species are 2 inches (5 cm) long.

Mason Wasps (Eumenidae)

Mason wasps have yellow bands on their abdomen and belong to the Eumenidae family. The species of black wasps includes variations in colors, including yellow, orange, red, and white stripes. It’s also known as potter wasps. Green or blue metallic shimmering colors can also be seen on some black mason wasps.

The unusual nest-building habits of Potter wasps and mason wasps earned them their names. Little, slender striped insects construct clay bottle vases out of pottery mud to create their nests.

Wasp identification: Mason wasps have a black or brown smooth body with colorful bands around their abdomen, which distinguishes them. Another way to detect the presence of potter wasps is by looking for their ceramic nests.

Black-and-Yellow Mud Dauber Wasp (Sceliphron caementarium)

The black-and-yellow mud dauber is a black wasp with yellow legs and a long, thin waist that connects the thorax and abdomen. A black thorax with yellow patterns distinguishes the mud dauber wasp. The waist (long petiole) is usually black, although yellow is sometimes seen. The dark tawny color of the long wings is striking. The habit of building nests out of mud gives this wasp its common name.

Wasp identification: The black body, yellow legs, and thin petiole connecting the abdomen and thorax distinguish the black-and-yellow mud dauber. Wasp bodies range in size from 0.9 to 1.1 inch (2.4 to 2.8 cm).

Blue-Winged Scoliid Wasp (Scolia dubia)

The blue-winged scoliid wasp is a big black and red wasp with two prominent yellow markings on its colorful abdomen. The iridescent blue wings of the wasp, which appear nearly black, are another distinguishing feature. Great parasitic wasps for controlling beetle populations are blue-winged scoliid wasps. The eggs of June beetles (Cotinis nitida) and Japanese beetles (Popillia japonica) are laid by the female wasp as it burrows into the ground.

Wasp identification: Dark blue wings, a black head and thorax, and a black and red abdomen with two yellow dots distinguish the easily recognized blue-winged scoliid wasp. Adult wasps are up to 2.5 cm long when fully developed.

Eastern Velvet Ant (Dasymutilla occidentalis)

Eastern Velvet Ants (Dasymutilla occidentalis) are red and black parasitoid wasps that look like ants. The red abdomen of the wingless female wasps is bordered by a distinct black band. The coloration of male eastern velvet ant wasps is comparable, but they can fly and have black wings. The sting of eastern velvet ants can be quite painful. The red and black stinging wasp is known as the “cow killer” for this.

Wasp identification: Due to its fuzzy red thorax and crimson abdomen with a black band across it, the eastern velvet ant is simple to identify. Black spiny legs and two black antennae characterize the ant-like wasp. The wasp is 0.75 inches (1.9 cm) long.

Spider Wasp (Pompilidae)

With black or dark blue bodies, huge heads, and fuzzy black abdomens, spider wasp (Anoplius nigerrimus) is a big group of pompilid wasps. The legs of most wasps in the Pompilidae family are long and spiky, with fine hairs covering the abdomen and hind legs. Yellow, white, red, or orange markings may be seen on several spider wasps. Some species of spider wasps are over 2 inches (5 cm) long, making them some of the biggest wasps.

Wasp identification: Dark slender bodies, translucent-blackish wings, and long spiny legs distinguish spider wasps. The grooves on the bodies of spider wasps are a common identifying feature.

Cicada Killer Wasp (Sphecius)

A common ground-dwelling wasp in North America is the eastern cicada killer (Sphecius speciosus). Yellow bands across the abdomen, black antennae, and translucent brown wings characterize the black or brown wasp. Yellowjackets or hornets may be mistaken with large wasps. Up to 2 inches (5 cm) long, brown and yellow wasps develop. The biggest wasps in North America are cicada killer wasps.

Wasp identification: The plump body, black or reddish-brown abdomen with yellow bands, and dark thorax with reddish lines are all characteristics of a Cicada Killer Wasp.

Thread-Waisted Wasps (Ammophila procera)

The slender thread-waisted wasp is a black wasp with a long waist that connects the abdomen and thorax. A black bulbous crown, black antennae, and a black belly with an orangey-red band across it characterize the spindly wasp. The wasps inject venom with their stingers, then carry the insects back to the nest, preying on their victims.

Wasp identification: The slender waist, fat orange-banded midsection, and long thin legs of thread-waisted wasps help them be recognized. Wasp size ranges from 1 to 2.5 cm (2.5 to 1 inch).

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