32 Different Types of Wasps in Iowa

Types Of Wasps In Iowa
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There are different types of wasps in Iowa, you might see. In addition, Iowa is home to a wide variety of wasps, some of which are native and some of which have been introduced to the state.

Meanwhile, some of these wasps can benefit the environment, while others can cause destruction to crops, gardens, and even humans if disturbed. 

Moreso, in this blog post, we will discuss the different types of wasps in Iowa that can be found and their characteristics.

We will also cover how to identify them and what to do if you encounter one of these wasps.

So read on to learn more about the different types of wasps in Iowa that you might see.

1. Sand Wasp

The Sand Wasp (Bembix spp.) is one of the types of wasps in Iowa that can be found throughout.

In addition, these wasps make their homes in sandy habitats and are typically seen digging through the sand, searching for food and a place to construct their nests.

Moreover, these wasps are solitary insects and can be identified by their long antennae and yellow and black stripes. 

The female Sand Wasp uses the sand to create tunnels and chambers for her nest, where she lays eggs and cares for her young.

While they are not considered aggressive, they may sting if disturbed or threatened.

To avoid potential harm, leaving these wasps alone and appreciating them from a distance is important.

2. Ringed Paper Wasp

Ringed paper wasps, also known as Polistes annularis, are types of wasps in Iowa that can be commonly found.

Meanwhile, these wasps are one of the most widespread species of paper wasps and are characterized by their reddish-brown color and yellow rings around the abdomen.

Also, they build their nests with a single comb between two or more walls and typically feed on pollen and nectar. 

These wasps can also become defensive if disturbed but are not particularly aggressive, and their sting is only mildly painful.

Ringed paper wasps are beneficial insects, helping to pollinate and control insect populations, and should be allowed to remain in your yard unless they become a nuisance.

3. Red Paper Wasp

The Red Paper Wasp is one of the common types of wasps in Iowa that can be found throughout.

This species of wasp is red and black in color and has an abdomen that is covered with white hair.

Moreso, the Red Paper Wasp builds its nests in protected areas, such as tree crevices, hollow logs, and the eaves of houses. 

They are also active during the day, usually seen foraging for food or gathering materials for their nests.

These wasps feed on nectar and small insects, including caterpillars and flies. They play an important role in controlling insect populations and pollinating flowers, making them beneficial to the environment.

4. Paper Wasp

Paper Wasps are also one of the most common types of wasps found in Iowa. These insects are usually black and yellow and are easily identified by their long, slender bodies and narrow wings.

They often form large nests that can be seen hanging from tree branches, eaves of homes, or other sheltered locations. 

Paper Wasps build their nests by chewing wood fibers into paper-like pulp, which is then used to construct the nest. They feed on nectar but may also hunt for caterpillars, spiders, and other small insects.

Although they can become aggressive if provoked, Paper Wasps are generally not considered to be a threat to humans as they rarely sting unless disturbed.

5. Norton’s Giant Ichneumon Wasp

Norton’s Giant Ichneumon Wasp is a type of wasp that can be found in Iowa. It is one of the largest species of ichneumon wasps, with females reaching up to 2 inches in length.

This wasp species is an important pollinator and is also beneficial in controlling pest populations. 

Its long antennae help locate its prey, which consists mostly of wood-boring beetle larvae.

Although the Norton’s Giant Ichneumon Wasp may look intimidating due to its size, it rarely stings and is quite harmless.

6. Northern Paper Wasp

The Northern Paper Wasp is a common species of wasp found throughout Iowa. This species is mostly black and brown, with some yellow-orange stripes on its body.

It has a slightly larger body than other species of wasps in the area and can reach up to half an inch in length. 

This species is often found nesting in tree bark or other protected areas, but it may also build its nest in man-made structures such as walls and window frames.

Northern Paper Wasps are typically solitary predators, preying on other insects such as caterpillars, flies, and aphids.

They benefit gardens and agricultural fields because they help keep pest populations in check.

7. Metric Paper Wasp

The metric paper wasp is a relatively large and distinctive species of wasp found in Iowa.

It has a reddish-brown head and thorax, with two yellow stripes running down the middle of its abdomen. The wings are clear, with reddish-brown spots at their tips. 

These types of wasps in Iowa build nests of paper-like material on tree trunks, branches, and walls. They feed on nectar and small insects such as caterpillars, flies, and spiders.

While they can be aggressive if disturbed, these wasps generally pose no threat to humans or pets.

In fact, they can be beneficial as they help control insect populations that would otherwise damage crops or invade homes.

8. Leucospid Wasp

Leucospid wasps are interesting types of wasps in Iowa. These wasps have long, slender bodies and a yellow-brown coloration.

The males have slightly longer bodies than the females, and the back of the abdomen has distinctive bands of yellow and brown. 

Their wings are transparent and often have a few spots or stripes of yellow or brown.

Leucospid wasps are considered beneficial insects as they help pollinate plants and can help control other pest species. They feed on nectar and pollen, making them important pollinators of various plants.

9. Large Four-Spotted Scoliid Wasp

The Large Four-spotted Scoliid Wasp (Pygodasis quadrimaculata) is a species of wasp that is native to Iowa. It has a long body with four black spots on the thorax.

This wasp species prefer grassy areas but can also be found in wooded habitats. 

These wasps build their nests in sandy soils or abandoned rodent burrows. They feed on nectar and other small insects.

The female wasps will lay their eggs inside a host, such as beetle larvae, providing protection and food for their young. 

The Large Four-spotted Scoliid Wasp is an important predator of many pest species, and its presence can help keep insect populations in check. It is likewise one of the different types of wasps in Iowa.

10. Ichneumon Wasp

The Ichneumon Wasp, D. bethunei (Diradops bethunei), is a species of wasp that is found primarily in North America.

It is a large and impressive insect with a body length of up to 1 inch. This species has black and yellow stripes along its abdomen and a bright red head. 

The Ichneumon Wasp lives in grassy and open areas where it will feed on insects and spiders. Iowa’s specific types of wasps are typically solitary but can sometimes be found in large numbers during the summer months.

They are beneficial predators, helping to keep insect populations under control in gardens and natural areas.

11. Hyperparasitic Wasp

The hyperparasitic wasp, Taeniogonalos gundlachii, is a type of wasp that can be found in Iowa. It is a parasitoid wasp that attacks other species of wasps and lays its eggs on or inside of them. 

So, the larvae of the hyperparasitic wasp will feed off of the other wasps and eventually kill them.

This wasp is usually found in woodlands or meadows but can also be seen in urban areas. They typically measure around 9 millimeters long and have black wings with yellow markings on them.

12. Horntail Wasp

Horntail Wasps are a type of parasitic wasp found in Iowa. They are large and easily recognized due to their long tail.

These wasps usually feed on the wood of trees and shrubs but can also feed on other insects.

The females lay eggs on the bark of trees, and when the larvae hatch, they will begin to feed on the host tree or plant. 

They are an important part of the local ecosystem as they help control some insect pests.

If you see these wasps around your property, be sure to leave them alone, as they can become agitated if disturbed.

There are more types of wasps in Iowa that you should know about; continue reading!

13. Great Golden Digger

The Great Golden Digger Wasp is a type of solitary wasp native to Iowa. It is a large insect, measuring between 1 to 2 inches in length, with a golden-brown body.

These wasps are solitary hunters, feeding on grasshoppers, caterpillars, crickets, and other insects. 

As one of the various types of wasps in Iowa, they nest in the soil and lay eggs in their host’s nests.

The adults feed on nectar and pollen and do not sting humans unless they are disturbed or threatened.

Although they may look intimidating, they provide an important service by controlling harmful insect populations.

14. Great Black Wasp

The Great Black Wasp is native to Iowa and is one of the region’s most impressive species of wasps.

It has a shiny black exterior and can be found in wooded areas, fields, gardens, and backyards.

This species hunts for large prey, such as grasshoppers and crickets, and will also scavenge for dead insects if necessary. 

The Great Black Wasp is solitary in nature and is often seen flying during the day. It is important to note that this species does not have a stinger, which makes it a harmless visitor to Iowa backyards. It is not left out of this list of several types of wasps in Iowa!

15. Giant Ichneumon Wasp

Giant Ichneumon Wasps are large parasitic wasps native to Iowa and much of the United States.

They get their name from the Greek term for “big tracker” due to their long ovipositor that they use to find and inject their eggs into host larvae.

Females are quite large, with some specimens reaching up to 3 inches in length, while males can grow to be about 1.5 inches.

These wasps have a black bodies with rusty orange stripes, and their wings are clear with brown patches.

Although they may seem intimidating due to their size and sharp ovipositors, these wasps are harmless to humans as they do not feed on them.

16. Four-Toothed Mason Wasp

There are many different types of wasps in Iowa that you didn’t know existed. The Four-toothed Mason Wasp is a type of wasp found in Iowa.

It is small, about 5 to 15 millimeters long, and has a blackish-brown coloration with four white dots on its abdomen. 

This wasp species prefers to live in wooded areas and can be seen foraging for food around flowers.

These wasps feed on nectar and pollen and are known to consume other insects, such as caterpillars, spiders, and flies. They are not aggressive and pose no threat to humans. 

As their name suggests, they build nests with masonry, which is why they are also called mason wasps. They make tunnels in the ground and use mud to close the ends of the tunnel.

17. Five-Banded Thynnid Wasp

This type of wasp is recognizable by its unique pattern of yellow and brown bands across the abdomen and black eyes.

They can be seen in Iowa flying around meadows, forests, and gardens from late spring to early autumn. 

These wasps usually measure up to 2.5 cm in length and are solitary wasps that feed mainly on flies and other small insects.

While their sting is not particularly painful, it is important to exercise caution when dealing with them as they may feel threatened and act aggressively if disturbed.

18. European Paper Wasp

Types of wasps in Iowa? The European paper wasp is a common species of wasp found in Iowa and throughout the United States.

They are easily recognizable by their black and yellow bodies, and their wings are usually pale yellow or white. 

These wasps build communal nests made from chewed plant material that can be found hanging from twigs or branches, on the sides of buildings, or even inside attics and sheds.

Their colonies usually consist of 15-20 individuals and feed primarily on nectar from flowers. They are relatively gentle and usually only sting when provoked.

19. Double-Banded Scoliid Wasp

The double-banded scoliid wasp is an often overlooked type of wasp native to Iowa. The species is black and yellow striped, with a prominent yellow band around the middle of the abdomen and another around its neck.

These wasps are easily identified by the two light yellow bands that separate their dark body and are harmless to humans.

They feed on caterpillars and grasshoppers and can be found in open meadows, agricultural fields, and gardens.

The double-banded scoliid wasp is beneficial in helping to reduce pest populations and can be seen flying low near the ground or hovering near flowering plants.

20. Cuckoo Wasp

Cuckoo wasps are a type of parasitoid insect found in Iowa, and they are quite different from other types of wasps in Iowa.

They typically have short, black bodies with bright yellow markings and long antennae. They feed on the larvae of other insects, such as bees, butterflies, and moths. 

Unlike most other wasps, cuckoo wasps do not build nests or colonies but rather lay their eggs in the nests of other species.

As their name suggests, these wasps are often referred to as ‘cuckoos’ as they exhibit a behavior known as ‘cuckooing.’

This is a situation whereby they take over a host nest by laying eggs and letting the host species raise their young.

21. Common Thread-Waisted Wasp

The Common Thread-waisted Wasp (Ammophila procera) is a solitary wasp species commonly found in Iowa.

They are black and yellow in color, have long antennae and wings, and measure up to 3/4 of an inch in length.

They construct their nests by digging underground tunnels, usually in sandy soil. These tunnels contain multiple cells which are used to store food and lay eggs. 

The Common Thread-waisted Wasp feeds on caterpillars, katydids, beetles, and other small insects that it hunts and captures with its long legs.

These wasps rarely sting humans and do not form large colonies like other types of wasps in Iowa.

As such, they are considered beneficial insects that help control pest populations in gardens and fields.

22. Common Paper Wasp

The Common Paper Wasp (Polistes exclamans) is a species of social wasp native to Iowa. It is easily identified by its red and black stripes and brown or orange wings.

The Common Paper Wasp is often seen around human dwellings, gardens, and fields, searching for nectar, pollen, and other food sources. 

This species builds nests out of the chewed-up wood pulp, typically in the form of a paper-like material held together with saliva.

They can be found in small colonies made up of a few hundred individuals and are one of Iowa’s most frequently seen wasps.

23. Braconid Wasp

The Braconid Wasp is a species of wasp found in Iowa. They are small and can range from 0.5-10 mm in length.

They vary in color; some have mostly black bodies and yellow markings, while others are entirely yellow or orange. 

These wasps are parasitoids, meaning they lay their eggs on the larvae of other insects, like caterpillars, moths, and beetles. As the wasp larvae grow, they feed on the host insect and eventually kill it.

The Braconid Wasp, one of the types of wasps in Iowa, is an important part of the local ecosystem as it helps keep many crop pests under control.

24. Boll’s Potter Wasp

The Boll’s Potter Wasp is a species of wasp that is commonly found in the state of Iowa. This species can be identified by its bright orange abdomen and black-and-white striped thorax and antennae.

The Boll’s Potter Wasp builds its nest by constructing clay pots out of mud and water that attach to a plant or structure. 

The nests of these types of wasps in Iowa can be found in gardens, parks, and other outdoor areas. They feed on nectar and pollen, and their larvae feed on other insects.

The Boll’s Potter Wasp is an important part of the environment, as it helps to control pest populations.

25. Blue-Winged Wasp

Blue-winged wasps are a common sight in Iowa during the summer months. These slender wasps, usually ranging in size from 0.6 to 1 inch, has a metallic blue sheen and reddish-orange markings on their abdomens.

As they are ground nesters, they can be found around bare soil, sandy areas, and even asphalt. 

While they are mainly solitary wasps, they can become quite aggressive when disturbed. They feed on smaller insects and hunt their prey by sight and smell.

These fascinating wasps can benefit the environment since they help control the population of pests.

26. American Pelecinid Wasp

The American pelecinid wasp, also known as the Pelecinus polyturator, is a unique species of wasp native to Iowa.

This type of wasp is most commonly seen during the months of June and July and can be identified by its long, black body and white wings. 

These wasps are not typically aggressive; their primary diet consists of nectar and other insects.

While the American pelecinid wasp’s sting is considered quite mild, it is still recommended to avoid direct contact with them.

27. Scoliid Wasp

The Scoliid Wasp (Campsomeris plumipes fossulana) is a type of wasp that can be found in Iowa. These wasp species are commonly seen around flowers and gardens as flower-loving insects.

The Scoliid Wasp has a characteristic black and yellow pattern on its body, and its wings are a bright yellow color. 

The wasp will use its long ovipositor to sting or inject venom into its prey, which can be larvae or other small insects.

Scoliid Wasps are typically solitary and do not form colonies like other species of wasps. This makes them relatively harmless to humans and other animals.

28. Short-Tailed Ichneumon Wasp

The Short-tailed Ichneumon Wasp is a species of parasitic wasp found throughout North America.

These wasps are black and have relatively long, slender bodies, measuring between 4 and 7 millimeters. They are common in Iowa and can be found near areas with trees and shrubs. 

These are also included in our list of the different types of wasps in Iowa. The female wasps lay their eggs on or near caterpillars, and the larvae develop inside the host caterpillar, feeding on its insides as they grow.

This species benefits the environment by feeding on pest insects that damage crops and plants.

29. Spider Wasp

The Spider Wasp (Auplopus mellipes) is a species of wasp found in Iowa. These wasps are usually between 3⁄4 to 1 inch long and have a light brown or yellowish color.

They are solitary wasps and are not known to be aggressive. The female Spider Wasp digs burrows for its eggs in sandy soils near the base of trees or shrubs.

Their nests can be found in the ground or in wood. These wasps feed on spiders and other insects, which they paralyze with their sting and then drag into their burrow as food for their larvae.

30. Squarehead Wasp

The Squarehead Wasp is a species of wasp found throughout the state of Iowa. These wasps are typically seen in wooded areas and range in size from 1/4 to 1/2 inch long.

These wasps are black with yellow bands on their abdomens and have characteristic square heads. 

The larvae of these wasps feed on wood-boring insects, so they can benefit gardeners dealing with borers or termites.

When threatened, Squarehead Wasps will sting and are considered to be moderately aggressive. We are almost done with our list of the various types of wasps in Iowa.

31. Thread-Waisted Wasp

The Thread-waisted Wasp, or Eremnophila aureonotata, is a type of wasp found throughout Iowa.

These wasps are relatively small and are identified by their slender bodies and long legs. They are black in color with yellow stripes on the abdomen and possess long antennae. 

The Thread-waisted Wasp typically makes its nest in small holes and tunnels other animals make.

They use their powerful jaws to create tunnels for their nests in dirt banks, fallen logs, and other places around their environment. 

They are types of wasps in Iowa known for feeding on cicadas, beetles, and other insects. In addition to these benefits, they are also important predators in controlling insect populations.

32. Weevil Wasp

Weevil Wasps are a type of parasitic wasp found in Iowa, and they are typically quite small, ranging from 1/8- to 3/8 inches long. They usually have black bodies with yellow stripes and yellow-tipped wings.

Weevil Wasps, one of the types of wasps in Iowa, are solitary predators that hunt for beetle larvae. 

Females use their long ovipositors to lay their eggs inside the larvae, where the wasp larvae then feed on the beetle larvae until adulthood.

Weevil Wasps can be identified by their yellow antennae and by their distinctive flight pattern—hovering near low-lying vegetation before diving down to land on their prey.


If you live in Iowa or plan to visit, you may come across a variety of wasps.

Wasps are beneficial insects and can help keep other pest populations in check. However, they can also become a nuisance if they become too numerous. 

Learning about the different types of wasps in Iowa can help you identify them and know what to expect.

This blog post explored the various types of wasps in Iowa and how to tell them apart. We are sure you learned some things!

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