Wasps, hornets, honey bees, and yellowjackets all seem pretty similar at first glance. However, there are important differences between the four insects look-alikes. Knowing these differences can help you assess the danger and determine your plan of attack.
Honey bees are an insect that falls under the Apis genus. Originating from South-Southeast Asia, these bees have been introduced worldwide due to their honey producing and crop pollinating capabilities. They have a decent amount of fuzz on their bodies and tend to be golden brown with black stripes. Honey bees are relatively docile and will only sting to defend themselves or the hive.
Despite what you may know, wasps aren’t actually a singular species of insect. The term ‘wasp’ refers to any insect in the Hymenoptera order and Apocrita suborder that is neither a bee nor an ant. This classification includes yellow jackets and hornets.
Yellowjacket (sometimes spelled incorrectly with a space between the two words) is the general name for predatory social wasps that fall under the genera Vespula and Dolichovespula. They’re generally black and yellow, although some species are black and white. Workers measure at about half an inch and alternating bands on their abdomen, with queens being a quarter inch larger. Unlike honey bees, they have little to no hair and don’t carry pollen. In addition to hunting pest insects, yellow jackets also feed on items rich in sugars and carbohydrates like flower nectar, fruits, and tree sap. Their hives are built from pulped wood fibers and built in shrubs and other protected places, like tree stumps, abandoned mouse burrows, and man-made structures.
Hornets are insects part of the genera Provespa and Vespa. While they look similar to yellowjackets, they are the largest of the eusocial wasps, with the largest reaching 2.2 inches. They generally nest in sheltered places like dark, hollow tree trunks. They have a similar diet to yellowjackets, but they can also kill larger insects like grasshoppers. Hornets are considered pests due to how they aggressively guard their nests when threatened. Their stings are especially dangerous due to being able to sting multiple times, having a high amount of acetylcholine (which makes the stings more painful,) and possibly other toxins depending on the specific species. In particular, the Asian giant hornet is the most venomous and cause about 30-50 deaths in Japan annually. Hornets can also exude a pheromone that mobilizes the other hive members to attack, making them very dangerous to humans and other animals.
Boz Pest Control has been helping North Shore homeowners handle pests for over 30 years. We’re an accredited A+ business with the Better Business Bureau and offer personalized service for our customers. No matter what kind of infestation we’re facing, we’ll make sure our treatment is one that’s safe for your home and family. If you need to get rid of some pests on your property, call Boz Pest Control today!