• Danielle Fornal

Wasp VS Hornet…Plus a Bonus Predator

People easily confuse bees with yellow jackets and hornets with wasps, probably because in most cases we are trying our best to keep our distance. But, when dealing with a sting or a threatening nest around your home, identifying information can be pretty handy. We will do our best to help you figure out which stinging insect and nest is which.

First off, here’s some general stinging insect knowledge regarding bees and wasps.

Bees: Have two pairs of wings, relatively hairy, long antennae and are important pollinators.

Wasps: Have two pairs of wings, relatively hairless, long antennae, most have a thin “waist”, many have bright orange and yellow colors (stripes on legs, abdomen or thorax)

Wasps include both yellow jackets and hornets.

Most species of wasps are predators.

Paper wasps have smooth bodies, usually dark brown with yellow markings and a slender waist. When paper wasps are flying they can be recognized by two rear legs "hanging down". Paper wasp nests are made of paper-like combs and found hanging under eaves, door frames, soffits, deck rails, roofs, porches, trees, shrubs.

Yellow jackets are a type of predatory wasp. Most yellow jackets are black and yellow, but some are black and white, like the bald-faced hornet. Yellow jackets tend to fly in a side to side motion and are very aggressive. Since they have stingers with barb, their sting is often very painful. Yellow jacket nests are made of paper with a single hole in the bottom, they nest in wall voids, rodent burrows, eaves, and other locations that are easily hidden from predators.

Hornet is a loosely used word to typically identify the bald-faced hornet, which is the largest of the wasps. Bald-faced hornets are yellow and black or white and black, look similar to the yellow jacket, but longer and thinner. Hornets are aggressive when defending their nest and sting repeatedly. They build their nests entirely on the exterior and out in the open and the nests are football-shaped and out of reach in high eaves, under decks and in trees and shrubs.

A Bonus Predator-The Cicada Killer Wasp

Recently, a predator has made its presence known in our area. The cicada killer wasp has been found nesting in at least one of our southern-most counties. These solitary wasps choose sites with specific characteristics to nest, they like well-drained, light-textured soils in full sunlight that are near trees harboring cicadas. At 1-2 inches long, their size tends to be a bit intimidating. Luckily, the cicada killer wasp is more of a docile insect, unless you have the unfortunate luck of being a cicada. The female wasp is known for snatching a cicada right in mid-air, then using the stinger it injects venom that will paralyze its victim so that the victim cicada can be taken back to the nest to deposit an egg into. The egg will then hatch and feed on the cicada before maturing to adulthood.

Although docile, stings to humans and pets can occur if you happen to accidentally stumble upon one.

At Safeway Pest Management, our technicians are licensed and trained to safely deal with stinging insects and their nests. If you’re hearing buzzing, or see a nest, call Safeway Pest Management at 262-679-4422 or 800-956-0800

You can also visit our website at

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S83 W18622 Saturn Drive 

Muskego, WI 53150

Muskego Office: 262-679-4422

Oshkosh Phone: 920-385-0412

Oconomowoc Phone: 262-354-3444

Toll Free 800-956-0800

Fax: 262-679-2322

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