What Does a Wasp Look Like?
All wasps have six legs, two antennae, and pinched midsections. However, each species has its own distinct appearance to distinguish them from other stinging insects. For example, you can tell most common Mid-Atlantic wasps apart by their size. Yellow jackets are the smallest (and nastiest), mud daubers are a little larger, and paper wasps are the biggest of the three.
People often confuse wasps for bees. While they have some similarities, these two types of pests have much different temperaments. Certain wasp species can be hostile and being able to recognize them on sight is helpful to avoid attacks. Check out the following wasp photos to learn more about pest identification and the distinctive characteristics of these insects.
Illustration of a yellow jacket
Side view of a yellow jacket
Close-up on the side of a yellow jacket
The black and yellow coloring, slim build, and narrow waists of yellow jackets mean they’re often mistaken for honey bees. However, unlike honey bees, these insects are almost completely hairless and have narrow wings.
Picture of yellow jacket
Image of a yellow jacket on a leaf
Images of a yellow jacket entering a rock crevice
Their coloring is similar to bees, but as these yellow jacket images show, their markings are quite different. Males have skinny black stripes, while females have thicker bands along their abdomens. A series of spots and triangular marks give the queen of the colony the most distinctive look.
Front and back views of a yellow jacket
Only about three-quarters of an inch in length, yellow jackets are the tiniest wasps in the region. They are only slightly bigger than a house fly, and their smaller size allows them to enter buildings through gaps and crevices in building foundations or tears in screens.
Pictures of a yellow jacket nest
Yellow jackets construct round, layered nests in wall voids or crawl spaces under houses. Some species build subterranean homes, and a nickel-sized hole in your yard or garden may indicate the entry point for an underground nest.
Top view of a paper wasp
Paper wasp with a reddish-brown color
Front back and side view of a paper wasp
Close-up image of a paper wasp
Roughly twice the length of a yellow jacket, paper wasps are the largest species in the Mid-Atlantic. Some are black and yellow, while others have a reddish or dark brown hue. They may also have solid sections of color, rather than stripes, on their hourglass-shaped bodies.
Paper wasps in their nest
A paper wasp nest can hold anywhere from 12 to 100 insects. As seen in these close-up pest photos, full cells contain eggs and developing larvae. Once the pest matures, they leave the empty cells behind.
Empty paper wasp nest
Paper wasp nest with a penny for scale
Paper wasp nests filled with larvae
Although paper wasp nests start small, the pests build outward until the structure is between six and eight inches wide. Completed nests usually have a distinctive umbrella shape.
Images of wasp nest cells
As you can see in this photo, the nests have hexagonal cells like a honeycomb. Paper wasps make their nests out of chewed wood and saliva, and unlike hornets and yellow jackets, these pests do not cover the combs with an outer shell.
A paper wasp next to a nest
Paper wasps prefer suspended nests, often building them on porch ceilings and window and door frames.
Top view of a mud dauber on the ground
Mud daubers have a unique appearance, which makes identification much easier. In contrast to yellow jackets and other wasps, mud daubers are usually metallic black or blue with long, thin waists and a small abdomen.
Mud dauber nest pictures
Mud dauber nests resemble organ pipes and are about as large as an adult fist. As their name implies, the pests make these nests out of mud, unlike the wood pulp used by other stinging insects.
Importance of Wasp Identification
Knowing the physical traits of these different types of wasps is vital when you have a pest issue. The sooner you can identify stinging insects, the faster you can find a safe, appropriate means of control. If you need more help with wasp identification or for nests removal around your home or business, contact the experts at Western Pest Services.