If you’re like most people, you probably don’t overthink about wasps until they get in your way. Or someone tells you they got stung by one.
This shouldn’t be the case, though, as wasps are exciting and helpful insects that deserve to be studied and understood.
Therefore, knowing the different types of wasps you may encounter will help ensure it’s not dangerous. And can help you avoid any confrontations with them altogether.
And so, here’s a comprehensive list of the different types of wasps you may encounter based on where you live.
1. Paper Wasps
This type of wasps, typically black and orange, feeds on soft-bodied insects and spiders. Although they prefer to feed on honeydew rather than nectar, Paper Wasp populations are often low compared to other types of wasps.
Because they have a hard time finding enough trees with large amounts of sap and insects to eat, Paper Wasps are capable fliers and are often seen hovering outside windows or over flowers in search of food.
However, if their nest is threatened, Paper Wasps will defend it by stinging anything that gets too close. They can also be found inside homes throughout North America in places like attics or basements.
Lastly, if you find one of these nests, don’t try to remove it yourself; contact a professional exterminator immediately.
2. Cuckoo or Jewel wasps
Both cuckoo and jewel wasps lay their eggs in other insects’ nests. When their larva hatch, they consume their hosts from within.
Thankfully, from the different types of wasps, humans have nothing to fear from these tiny terrors. Cuckoo wasps are about 2-5mm long (about twice as big as a mosquito). And jewel wasps have an additional needle-like beak at the front of their head.
They are relatively docile, though you should avoid getting stung by one if possible! If you’re stung by a cuckoo or jewel wasp, apply ice to reduce swelling and pain. Seek medical attention if symptoms persist.
3. European Hornet
The European hornet (Vespa crabro) is similar to yellow jackets in appearance and behavior. However, it is a little larger than a typical yellow jacket, measuring about 3 cm long, with brownish-yellow markings on its abdomen.
This wasp species can be found throughout Europe and Asia, but they are also common in Australia.
Unfortunately for people living in these areas, all three European hornet queens lived together in one colony, allowing them to overpopulate easily. Like yellow jackets, European hornets eat other insects caught using their legs or jaws.
They will also prey on small mammals like mice or birds if given the opportunity and may even sting humans if threatened enough!
While not as aggressive as other types of wasps, European hornets deserve respect and should never be handled without gloves or protective clothing.
4. Red-Humped Ant Wasp
They belong to a large family of wasps called Pompilidae. Red-Humped Ant Wasps are brightly colored relatives found in Central and South America. The females are very slender but possess large wings.
Thus, they live as parasites that kill giant tree ants and use them as hosts for their young. Of all the different types of wasps, the Red-Humped Ants wasp’s sting is painful but not dangerous to humans.
Males have longer antennae than females; they are also more prominent, with bright red tips at both ends of their abdomen.
Furthermore, the Red-humped ant wasp’s size ranges from .5 to 1 inch (1.2 to 2.5 cm) long with an equal wingspan.
The wingspan can be recognized by its entirely reddish-orange body apart from its legs and antennae, which are black or brown on top, and white underneath.
In addition, females lay eggs inside living ants. Then these hatch into larvae which eat their way out of their host before pupating within it.
The adults emerge from these pupae after about two weeks, chewing through the exoskeleton of their host to escape.
Conversely, they mate soon after emerging and begin searching for new hosts. These insects are aggressive towards humans and will attack if provoked; however, their sting is harmless to humans.
Female wasps do not die immediately when stung because their stinger remains attached to the victim’s skin.
While she flies away to find another host, this makes them unique among the different types of wasps. The female wasp uses her ovipositor to cut a hole in one of her victim’s abdominal segments, where she lays one egg per segment. She repeats this process until all five abdominal segments contain an egg.
5. Yellow Jacket Wasp
The most common wasp in North America. These are social wasps that can be found nesting underneath porches and leaves and anywhere else that gives them easy access to food sources.
Notably, they do not build their nests out of paper like other types of wasps, making it much easier to locate them. There is a distinct difference between yellow jackets and other social wasps.
Because they’re typically larger and have more markings on their bodies, it’s also sporadic for these wasps to sting humans. Although when they do, it is usually because they feel threatened or are protecting their nest.
If you encounter one of these creatures, don’t panic; walk away calmly and try to avoid contact with them. Yellow jacket stings aren’t life-threatening unless you’re allergic.
If you want to eliminate them without calling an exterminator, try pouring boiling water into their holes or spraying cooking oil around their entrances.
6. Bald-Faced Hornet
Bald-faced hornets are medium-sized wasps (about 2 inches long) that live primarily in wooded areas.
Unlike other types of wasps, especially yellow jackets, bald-faced hornets prefer being inside the wall. And under siding where they can find dark places to nest.
Unfortunately, they will often choose homes built by humans if there isn’t enough natural shelter nearby. Once inside a home’s walls or ceilings, bald-faced hornets will begin building combs where females lay eggs and store honey.
7. Velvet Wasp
These wasps are often mistaken for bumblebees. They typically sport a black velvet body with bright yellow wings, orange hairs, and red eyes.
They use these colorful features to scare off predators. Furthermore, the females lay their eggs in caterpillars or beetle larvae before dying.
The larvae feed on their host’s insides until they mature into adults. Velvet wasps are not aggressive like other types of wasps but will only sting if they feel threatened.
8. Potter Wasp
The potter wasp, scientific name Eumenes coarctatus, is a solitary wasp native to parts of Central and South America.
They’re typically red or orange and are known for creating clay nests that can measure anywhere from 3-15 centimeters (1-6 inches) long.
Because they build their nests on human structures, they’ve earned the title of human parasite. While they don’t cause structural damage, people may be annoyed by their presence.
Potter wasps feed on caterpillars, which they paralyze with their venomous stingers before dragging them back to their nests.
Once there, they lay an egg in each caterpillar’s body and seal it up, so it has fresh food waiting when it hatches. Unlike other types of wasps, potter wasps don’t eat pollen.
9. Harvester Ant
Named for their habit of collecting seeds, harvester ants are not aggressive unless they feel threatened. Unlike other types of wasps, they travel in straight lines and do not zigzag when searching for food.
The easiest way to tell if you’ve got a nest nearby is by observing large black columns of ants marching along major thoroughfares.
If you see one, there are likely many more you can’t see from your vantage point. However, I wouldn’t recommend harvesting any crops to feed your new pets.
These amiable insects can be observed safely from a distance and make fascinating outdoor companions.
If you want to know how big an ant colony is, count how many ants are visible on each side of the column and multiply! The Harvester Ant is a common sight across much of North America.
Further, they can usually be found near agricultural areas or anywhere with ample vegetation or water sources. Of all the different types of wasps, Harvester Ant has no stingers but will bite humans if provoked.
However, it is unlikely that anyone would attack them without provocation as they pose no threat to people or property.
10. Sand Wasps or Mud Daubers
These wasps build mud hives in protected areas. They use spiders and other insects to feed their young.
They tend to be non-aggressive, a different unique type of wasps. These wasps have smooth oval abdomen without any hair.
11. Social Wasps
They are also mud daubers because they build intricate mud cells for egg-laying (though some stick with existing holes). Social wasps include paper wasps and hornets.
Hornets are much larger than bees but smaller than yellow jackets on the different types of wasps list. Hornet nests resemble small footballs hanging from trees or shrubs.
12. Crab Spider Wasp
One of only a few wasp species on the different types of wasps that look like spiders. Crab spider wasps are so-named because they can be seen running on plants and other surfaces.
Crab spider wasps are solitary predators. Hence, they rely on their coloration to remain inconspicuous while hunting other insects (like bees).
The crab spider wasp is typically dark brown or black with white stripes or spots (which may help mimic a flower). Its legs have tarsi on them, which give it its name (the plural for tarsus is tarsi).
In addition, their body shape resembles that of a crab; hence, a crab spider wasp. Although they may seem scary and threatening to humans, these winged insects are not dangerous. Some people keep them as pets!
13. Sweat Bee
If you see a bee flying around during your run, stop to appreciate all the different types of wasps; Sweat bees have also been known to show up at picnics and birthday parties.
They are beneficial insects that help control pest populations and pollinate flowers. A single sweat bee can visit as many as 10,000 flowers in its lifetime!
Furthermore, the adult bees don’t even eat, and they survive by drinking flower nectar and sugar-water gifts left behind by their friendly hosts.
As they sip away at your sweet beverages, they can act as a natural pest control agent by taking out other smaller insects that might infest your garden.
For example, one study found that sweat bees were responsible for controlling aphid populations on squash plants. Some farmers use them for crop protection because they effectively keep pests under control.
So next time you see a bee on your lawn or picnic blanket, take a moment to enjoy it: It is an excellent addition to any outdoor gathering, but it may be helping keep your garden healthy!
14. Yellowjacket Wasp (Eastern Version)
The yellow jacket wasp may look dangerous, but it is not considered very aggressive. When you are in an area with yellow jackets, it will be best to stay away from them and not attempt to provoke them.
Of all the different types of wasps, this type of wasp will eat a wide variety of foods, including insects, fruits, vegetables, and meat. If you spot a yellow jacket in your garden or while hiking, do not go near it.
Instead, give it plenty of space, and it will fly away on its own. While some members of its species can be aggressive, most are not interested in attacking humans.
Like other types of wasps, they are more likely to sting if they feel threatened. However, they have been known to sting multiple times when attacked.
If stung by one, apply ice packs to help reduce swelling and pain and seek medical attention if necessary. These wasps build nests that resemble hanging upside-down paper bags.
It is of note that their nests can be found under eaves, porches, or decks. As well as in tree cavities, empty walls or attics of homes.
A perch should never be destroyed without first contacting a pest control company. They have access to products that will kill these pests without harming people or pets in their vicinity.
15. Solitary Bees
There are more than 80,000 different types of wasps (bees) in North America. One type of bee you might encounter is a solitary bee, and solitary bees live independently rather than in large colonies like honeybees do.
Furthermore, solitary bees usually burrow underground and create individual nests for their eggs and young.
Since these types of bees aren’t social insects, they don’t build hives with dozens or hundreds of other females. Thus, you may only spot one or two each season at most!
However, these tiny creatures are important in pollinating crops, wildflowers, and trees. Between three and five billion animals depend on pollination by solitary insects to survive.
Bees have been around for millions of years, so chances are you’ll be able to find some in your backyard, but if not, consider planting flowers like sunflowers and black-eyed Susans. These plants will attract many kinds of native bees.
16. Thread-waisted Wasps
These insects, including yellow jackets and hornets, are distinguished by their skinny thread-like waists among different types of wasps.
Male wasps are smaller than females, who sport an extra stinger on their bellies. The best way to avoid these critters is to recognize their nests early on.
They’re typically located outside near trees or in attics/wall voids and seal them off. Once inside a wall void or attic, you could end up with a significant infestation that isn’t cheap to eradicate.
If you accidentally come into contact with one of these stinging pests, don’t try to swat it away; run!
Because they’ll only chase you faster if you try fighting back, most people only have mild reactions to being stung by different types of wasps.
But some can have severe allergic reactions (hives, swelling) that require medical attention. To reduce your risk of exposure:
- Keep garbage cans tightly sealed, so they can’t enter through openings and
- Don’t leave pet food outdoors where they can find it. Hornets are particularly attracted to meaty food sources. If you’ve already been exposed: See your doctor as soon as possible for treatment options.
17. Proctotrupid wasps
These wasps are part of a large family, including parasitoid and hyperparasitoid wasp species. They are minimal, with many species having a body length between 1mm and 2mm and making them some of the smallest insects on Earth and on our list of different types of wasps.
They often have complex morphologies as they are specialized in their hunting techniques. For example, some hunt spiders or caterpillars, while others rely on wood-boring beetle larvae for food. This is one example of hyperparasitism.
Indeed, they also have a very diverse diet, including flies, moths, butterflies, beetles, and cockroaches. However, most feed on nectar from flowers to provide energy for flight.
While there are over 3,000 species of Proctotrupid wasps and other types of wasps known today, these tiny insects can be found worldwide except in Antarctica.
18. Diaprioid wasps
These wasps are non-stinging insects in an infraorder of parasitoid wasps with almost 5,000 species. They attack and lay eggs inside immature or adult insects (including other types of wasps).
The term wasp is used for any insect in a family called Vespidae, including ants, yellow jackets, and hornets.
Furthermore, most of these insects are very large, but not all; many look like tiny black or orange dots when they fly. Some have wings that fold under their bodies like umbrella ribs.
Others, such as yellow jackets and paper wasps, have smooth, long wings that cover most of their bodies. Conversely, these different types of wasps can sting repeatedly and are attracted to meat products.
Such as meats left on picnic tables or dropped on the ground by animals. Their nests can be found in logs, trees, shrubs, and wall voids.
But they can become aggressive when disturbed by humans who get too close to them or their nests. If you find one nest, there could be others nearby.
If you’re allergic to stings from bees or wasps, or if you’re stung by one accidentally. Seek medical attention immediately because reactions can be severe even if you don’t feel pain immediately.
19. Crown Wasps
These wasps are usually yellow or orange and typically nest underground. They do not consume wood but will use it to construct their nests. The adults look similar to hornets but have no stinging capability.
And so, the large black larvae feed on other insects and can be found on lawns during warm summer days.
If you are concerned about having a crown wasp nest on your property. Contact a pest control professional or your local extension office for treatment options.
Moreover, this is especially important if you have children playing outside regularly. While most species of these types of wasps are harmless, they can still deliver a painful sting if they feel threatened.
20. Ensign Wasps
These wasps get their name from their black and yellow stripes, which resemble a sailor’s insignia. They are parasitoids, meaning they kill or incapacitate their prey before laying eggs on them, a unique trait of these different types of wasps.
Furthermore, this trait is called sequestration and helps ensure survival for egg-laying females without a food source to provide for their offspring.
These wasps would have to live on nutrients stored from when they were larvae. Ensign wasp eggs hatch into larvae that consume their host before maturing into adult wasps.
Note that Ensign wasp species include Ancistrocerus arenosus and Leptopilina heteroatom. One genus, Stenodynerus, is considered an endangered species in Britain due to habitat loss and pesticides. The European population declined by over 90% between 1989 and 2004.
21. Trigonalid wasps
While most people are familiar with yellow jackets, different types of wasps come in various shapes and sizes, and their highly narrow waists generally distinguish them.
If you see a wasp with a skinny, pinched-looking waist, it belongs to a group called Trigonalidae (also known as thread-waisted wasps).
Only about 250 species exist worldwide, most of which are found in Australia, but that doesn’t mean they should be taken lightly.
They have an aggressive temperament and can deliver painful stings to humans, especially when they feel threatened or need food for their young.
Like other different types of social wasps, they build nests out of paper made from chewed wood fibers. The nest is often placed inside a tree hollow or another hole to protect against predators.
In some cases, however, these nests may become too large and fall into human spaces like porches and garages. When that happens, it’s important not to disturb them because they may react aggressively if you get too close.
If you live in a region where wasps are common, it’s essential to know how to deal with them. There are dozens of different types of wasps, each with particular habits and preferences.
Learning what to look for will help determine whether a wasp is causing trouble or just minding its own business.
Furthermore, the best defense against wasps is a good offense: if you regularly monitor your home for nests, you can prevent many problems from ever occurring.
It may seem like an unnecessary nuisance at first, but knowing how to identify an infestation early can save you time and money later on.
Even though some wasps and bees have similar habits, they aren’t related. The social insects (bees, ants, and termites) are all characterized by having a caste system in which workers do most of the work. At the same time, reproductives lay eggs and reproduce. Although some wasps live in colonies, they don’t have these castes. They instead rely on one queen to reproduce while thousands or millions of her offspring care for her.
Also, their diet depends on their particular species and habitat. But in general, wasps feed on nectar and other sweet foods, as well as small insects (like aphids) or honeydew.