8 min read

Types of Wasps & Guide to Spotting Them

Types of Wasps & Guide to Spotting Them
Table of Contents

Wasps are a common sight in gardens across the world, but how can you tell which species of wasp you're looking at? Wasps come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors, and understanding the differences between them can be tricky. In this blog post, we'll explore the various types of wasps and provide tips on how to identify them. We'll cover the physical characteristics to look for, as well as helpful resources to refer to when trying to determine what kind of wasp it is. With this knowledge, you'll be able to easily identify wasps and better understand these important insects.

How to Identify a Wasp

Identifying a wasp can be relatively straightforward when you know what characteristics to look for but it still takes some practice due to the sheer number of different species out there . To get started though look for rounded heads , slender waists , two pairs of folded wings , excellent eye sight , powerful stingers , various colors , social behavior along with aerial and ground nesting habits . Once you’ve become familiar with these traits recognizing a wasp should be much easier going forward!

Physical Characteristics

Wasps vary greatly in size, with most ranging between 1/2 inch and 3 inches in length. The head is typically round or oval-shaped with two large compound eyes that many smaller ocelli (simple eyes). Most species also have three simple eyes located between the compound eyes known as ocelli. The thorax has three distinct segments, each containing a pair of jointed legs and one pair of wings. The wasp's abdomen usually consists of six segments which contain the reproductive organs and the stinger used for defending themselves against predators..

Color Variations

Wasps are typically identified by their colors which can range from yellow to black or even metallic green. Many species feature stripes or other patterns on their bodies as well which can help distinguish them from similarly colored insects such as bees or ants. For example some common species such as the red-banded paper wasp have orange heads with black antennae, black bodies with white stripes on the abdomen and reddish bands on their wings whereas the European hornet has brown heads, yellow abdomens and brownish-black wings striped with yellow bands.

Behavioral Traits

Wasps are social creatures who live together in large colonies made up of workers (females) and queens (fertile female). Workers build nests using wood fibers chewed into a pulp while queens lay eggs inside chambers within these nests where they will remain until hatching occurs. After hatching larvae feed upon secretions provided by adults before transitioning into pupae then adult stages within the colony itself. Wasps are also quite active during summer months while they hunt for food such as other insects which they paralyze using venom from their stingers before dragging them back to feed their young ones or to use for food themselves.

Nesting Habits

Most wasps build aerial nests made out of mud daubed onto surfaces like walls or tree branches where it hardens into an almost paper mache like material after drying out completely . Some however prefer ground burrows instead where only queens reside whereas others yet construct aerial hives similar to those built by bees . These nests are often surrounded by an array of guard wasps ready to attack any intruder that gets too close.

Types of Wasps

Wasps are subdivided into two groups, solitary and social. Solitary wasps and social wasps are two distinct varieties of the same insect family. The primary difference between them is the way they live and interact with one another. Solitary wasps live independently, rarely coming in contact with one another and typically choosing to nest alone. By contrast, social wasps build colonies, dwelling together in groups of hundreds or thousands of individuals in a single nest. Both types of wasp play important roles in their respective ecosystems.

Solitary wasps

Solitary wasps can be found almost everywhere across the world and take on a wide variety of shapes and sizes depending on their species. They are typically characterized by having slender bodies, long antennae, and bright coloring – often yellow, orange or black stripes. These solitary creatures are most commonly predatory insects that feed upon soft-bodied insects like caterpillars or aphids; some species however will feast upon a variety of other prey items like bees, flies or spiders. As they don’t require much interaction with others to survive, many solitary wasps will lay their eggs within the body of their prey prior to consuming it - using the decaying corpse as sustenance for her offspring when they hatch!

Social wasps

Social wasps are less diverse in comparison to solitary wasps; commonly known species include yellow jackets (Vespula vulgaris) and hornets (Vespa crabro). These distinctive insects have similar physical characteristics as solitary species – slender bodies with bright markings – but differ significantly in habits due to their social nature. Social wasps create large communal structures from chewed wood pulp which serve as nests for multiple generations to inhabit over time; these dwellings may house anywhere up to 10,000 individuals at any given time! Most social species are scavengers who feed upon dead animals and sweet fruits while some also supplement their diet by hunting small invertebrates such as caterpillars or spiders if necessary.

Both varieties of wasp play essential roles in maintaining a healthy ecosystem - solitary species help regulate populations of pests like aphids while social varieties act as natural predators by keeping numbers of nuisance insects such as flies under control. Understanding more about these fascinating creatures can help us better appreciate how integral they are for sustaining our environment’s delicate balance!

Most Common Types of Wasps and How to Identify them

1. Yellow Jacket

The Yellow Jacket wasp is one of the most common and easily recognizable species of wasps. These bright yellow and black insects are often seen buzzing around gardens and other outdoor spaces. They range in size from 1/2 to 3/4 inches, and their bodies are elongated with a shiny black head, thorax, and abdomen. Yellow Jackets are carnivorous predators that feed on small insects like flies, spiders, caterpillars, bees, and aphids. They also scavenge for food at picnics and barbecues, so caution should be used when around them. While these wasps can cause a painful sting if provoked or threatened, they play an important role in controlling pests in gardens and reducing the spread of disease by consuming decaying matter.

2. Northern Paper Wasp

Northern paper wasps are a species of wasp native to the northern United States and Canada that help control insect populations by eating other insects such as caterpillars and beetles. They have a slender body measuring up to 19 millimeters (0.75 inches) long, with reddish-brown wings and pale yellow bands on the abdomen. Northern paper wasps build open nests from thin layers of wood fiber mixed with saliva which they hang from trees or eaves of buildings near open fields where they can find food sources such as flowers for nectar.

3. Mud Dauber

Mud daubers are a type of solitary wasp found throughout much of the world that get their name from the mud-like material they use to construct their nests in sheltered places such as walls, tree branches, attics, outbuildings, etc.. The female mud dauber creates cells within the nest using mud she collects from nearby soil sources which she mixes with her saliva before carrying it back to the nest site; these cells will eventually become home to her eggs after she has laid them inside each cell along with provisions for the larvae to feed on once hatched; she will then seal each cell with more mud before moving onto the next one - an extremely time consuming process! Mud daubers do not sting unless provoked so they can generally be regarded as harmless when left alone.

4. European Hornet

European hornets are large predatory wasps native to Europe but have been introduced around the world either intentionally or accidentally through human travel and commerce activities over recent centuries; they measure up to 3 centimeters (1 inch) in length with brown bodies marked by yellow stripes across the abdomen making them quite distinct from other types of wasps you may come across! European hornets hunt for other insects that might threaten crops so farmers often prefer having them around rather than trying to eradicate them, however if threatened themselves they can give a painful sting that could cause serious complications in some individuals; thus it is best not to disturb these fascinating creatures if possible!

5. Bald-faced Hornet

The bald-faced hornet (Dolichovespula maculata) is a species of wasp that is native to North America. It is easily identified by its white and black markings, which is why it's commonly referred to as a 'bald-faced' hornet. This species of wasp typically builds large football-shaped grey paper nests in trees and other structures, and can be aggressive when the nest or its inhabitants are disturbed. They feed on nectar, plant secretions, and other insects, including caterpillars and aphids.

6. Blue-winged Wasp

Blue-winged wasps (Scolia dubia) are a species of digger wasps that live across parts of North America. These solitary wasps have metallic blue wings with black veins running through them; they also have yellowish brown bodies with bands on their abdomens. Blue-winged wasps create burrows in the soil in which they lay their eggs, sealing them off before leaving them to hatch alone. The adults feed mainly on nectar while their larvae feed on the grubs of beetles or other small insects found in the ground around them.

7. Thread Waisted Wasp

Thread waisted wasps (Sphecius speciosus) are common throughout much of North America and are easily recognizable by their slender waists which connects their thorax section with their abdomen - hence the name thread waisted! Their colouring varies from bright reds to yellows, oranges, purples and blacks depending on the subspecies. These solitary wasps feed mainly on aphids or other soft bodied insects like caterpillars but will also drink flower nectar for energy when necessary.

8. Cow Killer Wasp

The cow killer wasp (Dasymutilla occidentalis) is a species of velvet ant found primarily in North America east of the Rocky Mountains; they have been reported as far north as Canada and as far south as Central America. Cow killers get their name because they have an extremely painful sting that some people claim feels like being hit by a cow! They prefer dry areas with sparse vegetation but can be found almost anywhere there are ants; they feed mainly off ant larvae but will also eat pollen collected by female ants for food storage purposes too.

9. European Paper Wasp

This particular wasp is common in Europe, where its name comes from, as well as many other countries across the world. It has a yellow-and-black body with a distinct triangular pattern to it, and its length ranges from 1 - 1.5 inches. The European paper wasp typically builds nests of paper-like material that they produce by chewing wood fiber and mixing it with saliva. These nests can be found on houses or roofs around the area, depending on the species. They are considered beneficial to have around because they feed on caterpillars and other pests that could cause harm to crops or gardens.

10. German Yellow Jacket

German yellow jackets are medium-sized wasps that are typically found in Central Europe but can also reside in other areas of Europe and North America too. Their bodies are black and yellow like most other wasps, but their abdomens have yellow stripes instead of just spots like some others do. German yellow jackets mainly feed on nectar from flowers, but they also may feed on smaller insects such as flies or even spiders if they happen to come across them while out foraging. They typically build their nests near human structures like homes or garages since these provide ample protection against predators such as birds and other animals.

11. Spider Wasp

Spider Wasps are so named because they hunt down spiders for food! They typically prefer to eat male spiders rather than female ones, since male spiders make up most of the population and provide more nutrition for the wasp larvae when they hatch. spider wasps have a black coloring with white spots scattered throughout their bodies, making them easy to identify among other types of wasps. These insects tend to prefer warm climates like those found throughout the Mediterranean region but can easily adapt to colder climates too if need be.

12. Cicada Killer Wasp

Cicada Killer Wasps look quite intimidating at first glance due to their large size; however, this species is actually quite peaceful toward humans and only preys upon cicadas for food! Their appearance is similar to that of a hornet with its bright orange/yellow coloration along with black stripes running down its backside; however, unlike most hornets these wasps lack stingers so they’re harmless towards humans unless provoked otherwise. Cicada killer wasps tend to build their nests underground near trees or shrubs where there’s already existing tunnel systems; this makes them hardy against weather changes since these tunnels provide adequate shelter no matter what season it is outside!

13. Southern Yellow Jackets

Southern Yellow Jackets are a type of wasp that is common in the southern United States. They are typically black and yellow, but can also be brown in some areas. They form large colonies and their nests can reach up to 3 feet in diameter. These wasps live by preying on other insects, such as flies, caterpillars, and spiders. They are also known to feed on nectar and fruits. During the summer months, these wasps can become aggressive if their nest is disturbed or if they feel threatened.

14. Braconid Wasps

Braconid Wasps are small brightly colored wasps found all around the world. These wasps are parasitic and prey on other insects such as caterpillars and beetles. They lay their eggs inside the host insect's body before killing it when the larvae hatch out of it. The larvae then feed off the host until fully grown before emerging from its body. Braconid Wasps are important for helping to control pest insect populations and aiding in crop pollination.

15. Potter Wasps

Potter Wasps are small solitary wasps that build mud nests resembling small teapots or pots with a single hole at the top for entry and exit. These nests are typically built on tree trunks or branches so they can access food sources nearby such as aphids, caterpillars, moths, beetles, etc. Potter Wasps provision their nests with paralyzed prey items which act as food for their larvae when they hatch out of them later on.

16. Cuckoo Wasps

Cuckoo Wasps belong to a family of predatory insects that parasitize other species of social bees or wasps by laying their eggs inside another nest belonging to another species of bee or wasp where their young will benefit from having access to already-prepared food resources within the host's nest once hatched out from theirs eggs . Cuckoo Wasps lack stings so rely entirely on stealth for survival and have adapted several behavioral strategies for fooling other bees or wasps into accepting them as members of their own colony instead of being seen as an intruder or predator by displaying behaviors similar to those observed in members of the same species.

17. Four-toothed Mason Wasp

This species of wasp is a solitary species that belongs to the genus Monobia and is native to North America. It has a black abdomen and yellow and black striped wings, with a distinctive four-toothed pattern on its head between its eyes. They mainly prey on caterpillars, but will also feed on other soft-bodied insects such as aphids. The female wasps build their nests in mortar joints of masonry walls or sometimes in hollow plant stems or other cavities made out of mud or clay. They are usually seen around late spring through early summer, but may be active up until the first frost.

18. Great Black Wasp

This species of wasp belongs to the family Sphecidae, which includes many predatory wasps that dig burrows for their nests. Great Black Wasps are large and robust, measuring almost 1” in length and having a black body with orange markings along its abdomen and legs. These wasps are rarely seen as they nest underground and only come out when searching for prey or during mating season. They feed mainly on grasshoppers, caterpillars, spiders and other insects as well as scavenge honeydew from aphids and mealybugs. Their nests can be found near wood piles, stumps or old tree roots in dry areas where their food sources are abundant.

19. Horntail Wasp

Horntail or Wood Wasps are large-bodied wasps that belong to the family Siricidae which contains some of the largest species of parasitic wasps found across the globe. The adults have an average body length between 30-35mm with a distinctly colored yellowish brown body with dark bands running along it's thorax and abdomen giving them a banded look overall appearance.. The females have an ovipositor which is modified into a saw-like structure that they use to drill into woody stems to lay eggs inside so that their larvae can feed upon the inner stem tissue growing inside there host tree/plant stem after hatching from its egg stage .The females also have characteristic long antennae which bend downwards at their tips alongside two pointed "horns" at the back of their heads easily distinguishing them from other types of wasps in the field.

Our blog

Latest resources and insights

We provide ideas, inspiration, resources, tools & tips to help people of all ages and experience levels grow plants successfully
Guide to Terrariums & Most Common Terrarium Plants

Guide to Terrariums & Most Common Terrarium Plants

Get creative with terrarium plants and add a touch of nature to your home or workspace.
Landscaping Rock Types & How to Pick the Best One

Landscaping Rock Types & How to Pick the Best One

Landscaping rocks can range from small pebbles to large boulders and can dramatically transform the look and feel of any outdoor space.
Orchid: Plant Care & Growing Guide
Plants & Flowers

Orchid: Plant Care & Growing Guide

Orchid Care Tips for Beginners and Experienced Gardeners
Best Indoor House Plants for Your Home and Pets

Best Indoor House Plants for Your Home and Pets

Thinking of greening up your house? Let’s discover your best option together.