Image of a Wasp

The Difference Between Wasps and Hornets

Wasps are a family of insects that includes hornets, yellow jackets, and solitary wasps. This means that all hornets are wasps, but not all wasps are hornets. These pests can have subtle distinctions or vast differences depending on their species.

While hornets are not native to the area, there are several U.S. pests that go by this name. The most common, bald-faced hornets, are not true hornets. They are actually close relatives of yellow jackets. The European variety, also called giant hornets, are the only true hornets in the country.


Wasp and Hornet Similarities

Some simple features set wasps apart from other stinging insects. Unlike bees, both wasps and hornets have smooth, glossy bodies and a thin, thread-like waist. They also have two sets of wings.

Differences Between Wasps and Hornets

Despite the ways in which they are similar, the look of these pests can differ greatly.

  • Color – Many wasps feature black and yellow stripes or bright, metallic coloring. Hornets have a different, more subdued look. Bald-faced hornets are black and white, while European hornets are brown, yellow, and black.
  • Body Type – Shape is another way to identify wasps vs. hornets. Most wasps are long and thin. Both U.S. species that go by the name hornet are notable for their thick bodies and rounded abdomens. European hornets are also the largest wasps in the country, measuring over an inch long.
  • Numbers – Because all hornets are social insects, those who spot the pests are likely to find large nests and multiple hornets. Other wasps may be social or solitary.

Wasp vs. Hornet Location

Most wasps build paper nests, though size and shape vary. Bald-faced hornets create the iconic, football-shaped nests, while paper wasps build smaller, open homes in sheltered places like the eaves of buildings.

Other wasp breeds prefer to make tunnels out of mud or live in abandoned animal burrows and hollow wood. European hornets often choose tree holes, attics, or wall voids. Since hornet or wasp nests can exist in similar areas, identifying the type of pest by location can be difficult.

Comparing Wasp and Hornet Stings

Finding wasps or hornets near the house is alarming to residents and may lead to harmful encounters. Any kind of wasp may turn hostile when people or pets disturb their nest. Unlike bees, these insects can sting repeatedly.

Wasps and hornets are venomous and an attack can prove unpleasant. Hornet venom causes a particularly painful reaction. Often, the stings result in swollen, red, and itchy areas on the skin. For those with specific allergies, wasp or hornet stings can be life-threatening.

Wasp vs. Hornet Control

During winter, most wasps and hornets do not survive and their colonies lay dormant. This is an ideal time to get rid of nests, though removal will not prevent the insects from returning in the spring. To handle a wasp or hornet infestation safely, contact a professional. Western Pest Services has trained experts ready to help.