You’re not alone if you can’t figure out the difference between wasps and hornets. In reality, the answer could be as simple as “Yes! There is a difference.” However, there’s much more to the relationship between wasps and hornets.
Unless you study insects or work in the pest control field, you likely can’t tell a wasp from a hornet. But it’s beneficial to know what sets the two apart to correctly identify, prevent, and tackle an infestation or minor problem.
James River Pest Solutions is here to share everything you need to know about buzzing wasps and hornets. Continue reading to discover how the two insects are different, and never hesitate to call our friendly team when you’re concerned about an infestation or pest issue of any kind!
What are Wasps?
Wasps come in various colors, sizes, and shapes, from solid black to brightly striped with black and orange. Paper wasps and yellow jackets are the two most common wasps in the United States.
Depending on the particular species, these flying insects can be social or solitary creatures. Unlike honey bees, wasps can sting several times and will not hesitate to do so when they feel threatened. However, as long as you leave them be, they shouldn’t attack or sting you.
- Size: 1 inch or smaller
- Color: Several variations, including solid back, white striped, orange striped, or yellow striped
- Other Characteristics: Wings, narrow waist
What are Hornets?
Hornets are technically a type of wasps and some of the largest stinging pests. However, this doesn’t mean that wasps are hornets. To better understand, think back to elementary school when you learned that all squares are rectangles, but not every rectangle is a square. The same idea applies to wasps and hornets.
The European hornet is the most abundant species in the United States. Unfortunately, hornets have no problem stinging several times in a row when they feel they are in danger. Even swatting your hand at one near you is taken as an aggressive act and can cause the hornet to attack.
- Size: Up to 1.5 inches
- Color: Black and white or brownish-red, yellow stripes
- Other Characteristics: Relatively bulky bodies
The Difference Between Wasps and Hornets
Below are the top five facts showing the difference between wasps and hornets. Use this information to help you identify the insect and use proper caution when interacting with it.
1 | Typically, Wasps are Brightly Colored, and Hornets are Dull.
Their coloring is a more obvious difference between wasps and hornets. While hornets are often dull-colored, most wasps have vibrant, eye-catching hues, except for solid black ones.
For example, the iconic colors of yellow jacket wasps have striking yellow stripes with a jet-black color. In contrast, the European hornet is primarily dark brown with a dull red tone, and their abdomens are subtly decorated with yellow.
2 | Hornets can be Highly Aggressive.
Don’t be fooled– Wasps will certainly sting to defend themselves or their nest when bothered. However, hornets are notorious for their stubborn aggression. When a hornet’s nest is disturbed or a larger creature, like humans, threatens its safety, hornets won’t even blink an eye. They’ll charge straight to defense mode and use their painful sting to attack.
The only exception to this general difference between wasps and hornets is the standard yellow jacket. These wasps are known for their unprovoked stings. So, if you’re enjoying a nice meal in your backyard this spring and summer, keep an eye out for feisty yellow jackets that will come after the food!
3 | Hornets are Larger than Wasps.
Wasps have slender bodies and rarely grow past an inch in size. On the other hand, hornets have a similar body shape, except it is longer, more round, and bulkier than wasps.
4 | Wasps Usually Have Smaller Nests.
A hornet’s nest can be as large as a basketball, housing 100 to 700 members. Wasps’ nests are much smaller, measuring around seven inches wide and containing only about 25 members.
5 | The Hornet’s Sting is the Most Painful.
Both wasps and hornets will sting when they sense a threat or danger. However, if you had to be stung by one, you’d hope it was a wasp. Wasp stings certainly cause pain, redness, and swelling, but hornets pack a more powerful punch! For some individuals and depending on the hornet species, a sting can even be deadly.
How are Wasps and Hornets Alike?
Of course, the obvious thing hornets and wasps have in common is their appearance. Once you know the difference, telling them apart is not too difficult. Otherwise, these similar insects are often confused with one another.
One of the most prominent commonalities of these two stinging insects is where they like to build their nests. Although each species of wasp or hornet has preferences for where to nest, either one will frequently build its home in some of the most problematic areas.
For instance, if there is a lack of rotting logs, branches, and other natural structures, they will nest in places like the garage, barn, work shed, front porches, and outdoor stairways. This makes it tricky to avoid them and ensure you keep your distance. So, always be on the lookout for potentially dangerous wasps and hornets.
Other similarities include the following:
- A carnivorous diet
- Most variations have wings
- Only females can sting
- Belong to the Vespidae family
- Aid in pollination
What You Need to Know About Wasps and Hornets
Other than knowing the difference between wasps and hornets, a few more facts are beneficial to know. That way, you can best protect yourself and your family from potential stings and infestations.
Wasps and Hornets are Beneficial Insects
Despite the danger of these aggressive stinging insects, you may want them around. Wasps and hornets are among the world’s critical pollinators and will even consume other problematic pests. They are especially beneficial for a home garden!
Stay Away from Wasp and Hornet Nests
Wasps and hornets are most aggressive and likely to sting when someone comes close to or disrupts their nest. So, keep a sharp eye out for nests when spending time outdoors. Accidentally bumping into one will likely become a nightmare!
What Happens When You Are Stung?
Most people experience at least one sting from a wasp or hornet in their lifetime. And your chances are increased if you spend ample time outdoors. When stung, immediately get away from the insect quickly and calmly to avoid more stings. Then, wash the affected area and apply something cold to reduce the swelling and pain.
You can also take ibuprofen to lessen the pain that may last several days after the incident. Similarly, hydrocortisone is helpful for the intense itchiness these wounds can produce.
In most cases, the pain, itchiness, and swelling decrease over a week or so. However, if the sting becomes increasingly hot and red over the next few days, you should get it checked by a doctor because it may be infected.
How to Prevent Wasps and Hornets
If you have young children, precious pets, or allergies to stings, you’ll want to prevent wasps and hornets from causing any trouble around or inside your home. To keep these insects away, try the following methods:
- Keep food and drinks indoors.
- Shut the windows and doors.
- Plant insect-repelling plants around the home, like basil, marigolds, and pitcher plants.
- Routinely inspect for nests.
- Take the trash out regularly and ensure it is in a trash bin with a lid.
- Schedule regular pest inspections to get ahead of a potential infestation.
Eliminating Wasps and Hornets
When you’re faced with an infestation of dangerous wasps or aggressive hornets, there’s only so much you can do on your own. Some homeowners will attempt to get rid of the pesky population with baits. However, this only works with some wasps species, like yellow jackets.
If you try to knock the nest down or use any other invasive removal technique, there is a significant risk the wasps or hornets will sting you. And if a whole colony swarms you, you’re in for some serious pain or worse.
So, instead of risking your safety, call James River Pest Solutions to remove the hornets and wasps quickly and effectively without harming you or our team. We have the right tools and experience to eliminate these stinging insects, so you don’t have to.
Call the friendly and knowledgeable team at James River Pest Solutions today!