19 Types of Wasps in North America

Types of Wasps in North America
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If you’ve ever encountered a wasp in North America, you know they can be pesky. But did you know that many different types of wasps are found across the continent?

This comprehensive guide will look at the various types of wasps in North America and how to identify them.

From the tiniest paper wasps to the larger yellow jackets and bald-faced hornets, this guide will provide an overview of the different types of wasps you may encounter in your area.

So grab a coffee and read on to get to know your enemy!

1. Yellow Jackets

The yellow jacket is one of the most common types of wasps. These black and yellow striped insects are found in many parts of the continent, from Canada down to Mexico.

Although their venom can be quite painful, yellow jackets are typically only aggressive when their nests are disturbed or when food sources are threatened.

These types of wasps in North America form large colonies containing thousands of individuals. While they prefer wooded areas and other secluded spaces to build their nests, they also reside in walls, attics, and other manufactured structures.

Yellow jackets primarily feed on other insects and plant matter, but they also take advantage of sweet foods like fruit, nectar, and soda.

Despite their small size, these wasps can quickly consume a surprising amount of food.

It’s important to note that yellow jackets don’t usually die off in the winter months. Instead, they enter a state of hibernation until temperatures rise again in the spring.

This means that if you’re trying to get rid of a yellow jacket nest, it’s best to do so in the summertime when the wasps are active.

2. Northern Paper Wasps

The Northern Paper Wasp is one of North America’s most commonly encountered wasps. These types of wasps in North America have a recognizable look, featuring black bodies with yellow stripes running down their abdomens.

Northern Paper Wasps are social insects and can often be seen gathering together in large groups. 

These types of wasps in North America build their nests from a papery material from chewed wood and saliva.

The nests of these wasps can be found hanging from eaves, porch ceilings, shrubs, and other places around homes and buildings.

Northern Paper Wasps are considered beneficial insects since they help control insect populations by preying on caterpillars, flies, and other small pests.

However, it is important to be aware of them since they will sting if provoked or if their nest is disturbed. While their stings are usually not severe, keeping your distance when dealing with these wasps is best.

3. Mud Dauber

Mud Daubers, or solitary wasps, are among the many types. These insects are typically identified by their long and slender bodies and the mud nests they construct in protected areas like under eaves and windows.

Mud daubers get their name from creating these nests out of mud or clay.

While mud daubers have stingers, they are not aggressive and rarely sting people. They hunt for spiders, which they paralyze and store in their nests as food for their larvae.

Mud daubers come in various colors, shapes, and sizes, depending on the type of species. 

The most common types are the black and yellow mud dauber (Sceliphron caementarium), the blue mud dauber (Chalybion californicum), and the organ-pipe mud dauber (Trypoxylon politum).

It is important to note that while some types of wasps in North America can be a nuisance and cause potential harm, mud daubers do not fall into this category. They are beneficial to humans as they help to control spider populations!

4. European Hornet

Regarding the types of wasps in North America, the European Hornet is one of the most intimidating. Native to Europe, this wasp species has made its way across the Atlantic Ocean and can now be found in parts of Canada and the United States. 

While they can look quite similar to other types of wasps, European Hornets are easily recognizable by their large size and reddish-brown coloration.

These types of wasps are known for their aggressive behavior and will actively defend their nest if disturbed. 

These types of wasps in North America also have a nasty sting that can cause serious pain, so it’s best to steer clear if you encounter one.

If you have a European Hornet infestation, it’s important to contact a professional exterminator as soon as possible to get rid of them.

5. Bald-faced Hornet

When talking about types of wasps in North America, the bald-faced hornet is certainly one to be aware of. While it looks similar to a yellow jacket, it is quite different.

These wasps measure 1 and 2 cm in length, characterized by their white and black markings, with the white being much more prominent. 

These types of wasps in North America build large, football-shaped nests with a paper-like material containing up to 700 individual hornets. While they may appear intimidating, they are quite docile and rarely attack unless provoked. 

Bald-faced hornets can be found across the continent and prefer to build their nests in trees or bushes, although they have been known to build them on buildings and other structures.

They primarily feed on small insects such as flies and aphids but can also eat small pieces of fruit. 

It is important to exercise caution when dealing with bald-faced hornets, as their sting can be very painful and cause an allergic reaction in some people.

If you spot a nest near your home, it is best to contact an exterminator with experience dealing with these types of wasps in North America.

6. Blue-winged Wasp

When it comes to types of wasps in North America, the blue-winged wasp is an incredibly fascinating species.

These insects are members of the family Vespidae and can be found in many parts of the United States. They are often mistaken for bees due to their yellow and black stripes, but the blue wings easily differentiate them from bees.

The blue-winged wasp has several unique characteristics. These include a small, elongated body and a long head with short antennae. Their heads also have three distinct segments and a large set of compound eyes. 

The wings are typically bright blue and edged in black. These wasps feed on nectar, pollen, and other small insects. They live in colonies, and their nests usually contain several cells within a single nest. 

These types of wasps in North America are most active during the day and can be seen hovering around flowers in search of food. They are quite docile and rarely sting unless provoked.

The blue-winged wasp is a fascinating species and an important part of the North American ecosystem. 

These types of wasps in North America provide an essential plant pollination service and help control insect populations.

Knowing how to identify them is important so you can appreciate their importance in our environment.

7. Thread-Waisted Wasp

When it comes to types of wasps in North America, the thread-waisted wasp is among the most common. These wasps are slender and are easily recognizable due to their long ‘thread-like’ waist.

They come in various colors: yellow, brown, and black. Thread-waisted wasps can be found throughout the United States, Mexico, and Canada.

These types of wasps in North America are predatory insects and use their long thread-like waists to inject venom into their prey. They feed on other insects and spiders, paralyzing them before carrying them back to their nests for consumption.

Thread-waisted wasps prefer nesting in wood and will often build burrows in tree stumps or logs.

Thread-waisted wasps are social insects living in large colonies with multiple queens. Females can sometimes be mistaken for bees due to their coloring. However, they lack the fuzziness of a bee. 

These types of wasps in North America do not sting humans unless provoked and are beneficial to gardens as they help control pests such as caterpillars, flies, and aphids.

Consider yourself lucky if you see a thread-waisted wasp in your backyard! These fascinating creatures are an important part of our ecosystem and should be respected.

8. Cow Killer Wasp

The cow killer wasp is one of the most feared types of wasps. Its scientific name, Vespula maculifrons, aptly describes the characteristic black and yellow pattern on its head and abdomen.

This species of wasp is one of the larger members of the Vespidae family and can reach up to 1.5 inches in length. 

As their name implies, these wasps have a painful sting that is said to feel like a cow has kicked you. The cow killer wasp builds large nests in trees, walls, or similar structures.

They are carnivorous, feeding on small insects such as flies, moths, and caterpillars. 

The female wasp can sting multiple times and deliver venom that can be dangerous to humans and animals if not treated properly.

It is important to avoid these types of wasps in North America as they can be extremely aggressive if disturbed. 

If you encounter a cow killer wasp nest, you should contact a professional pest control expert to handle the problem. Taking on this problem alone could be hazardous and result in an unwanted sting.

9. European Paper Wasp

When it comes to types of wasps in North America, the European Paper Wasp (Polistes dominulus) is one of the most common.

Native to Europe and introduced to the United States in 1979, these wasps have a wide range of habitats and can be found in the wild or even around human dwellings.

European Paper Wasps are black and yellow striped with rust-colored wings. They measure around 2 centimeters in length and build their nests out of the chewed wood pulp, which they construct in sheltered areas like attics or porches.

These wasps are social and will often live together in a single nest.

Although they can be aggressive when defending their nest, European Paper Wasps usually aren’t aggressive toward humans unless disturbed or threatened.

When dealing with a nest, it’s important to use extreme caution as the wasps may become agitated if provoked. 

The best way to avoid a wasp problem is to keep them away from areas where food is handled or eaten, such as picnic tables or outdoor grills.

If you are dealing with an infestation, the best action is to contact a professional pest control service.

10. German Yellow Jacket

If you’re living in North America, you’ve no doubt encountered the German Yellow Jacket. These types of wasps in North America are common across the continent and can be particularly aggressive if their nest is disturbed.

This species has a black body with bright yellow stripes and a yellow head. It grows to be between 3⁄4 and 1 inch long.

German Yellow Jackets can be found in urban and rural areas, but they prefer to build their nests in sheltered places such as hollow trees, roof eaves, and even inside attics.

These types of wasps in North America can build large nests containing thousands of workers and a single queen.

Though German Yellow Jackets are important pollinators and feed on other insects, they can become a nuisance around human habitation.

These types of wasps are particularly aggressive when defending their nests, so it’s best to take care when you encounter one!

11. Spider Wasp

When we think of wasps, we generally think of the large and intimidating yellow-and-black striped insects that are common throughout North America. But another type of wasp, known as the spider wasp, calls this continent home. 

Spider wasps belong to a family known for their unique method of preying on spiders. This type of wasp will use its powerful mandibles to paralyze its spider prey before dragging it back to its nest. 

Spider wasps tend to be much smaller than other types of wasps in North America, measuring only about 1/4 to 1/2 inch in length.

These wasps are primarily black and brown, but some may have yellow markings or stripes on their abdomens. 

Like other types of wasps, they feed on nectar from flowers and use the proteins from the paralyzed spiders to nourish their larvae.

Spider wasps may be small, but they can pack quite a sting if threatened! It is best to keep your distance from these creatures if you encounter them outdoors.

12. Cicada Killer Wasp

The least types of wasps in North America that we will discuss is the cicada killer wasp (Sphecius specious).

This type of wasp is found throughout the United States, from New England to the Mid-Atlantic states, down through the Midwest and Southeast, and up through the Southwest and West Coast. 

It’s an impressive species with a very large body size. It’s the largest of all wasps in North America. The cicada killer wasp is a solitary species that builds its nest in the ground.

Unlike other species, it does not live in a colony, and the females do not cooperate. 

Instead, each female searches for cicadas which it then paralyzes and returns to its nest. The cicadas are food for the larvae, who will feed on them until they emerge as adult wasps.

Though they may look intimidating due to their size, cicada killer wasps are generally harmless to humans. These types of wasps in North America have no stingers and use their powerful jaws the hunt and capture their prey.

While they can be a nuisance if they build their nests near your home or yard, they’re not aggressive toward humans and will generally ignore them if left alone.

13. Southern Yellow Jacke

The Southern Yellow Jacket is among the types of wasps in North America. Like other types of wasps, this species is a predatory insect, preying on other insects and spiders.

As their name suggests, Southern Yellow Jackets are distinguished by their yellow and black bodies and yellow-striped abdomens.

Unlike many other wasps in North America, this species tends to nest in the ground, often in wooded or grassy areas.

However, some colonies can also be found in walls, under decks, and other sheltered places. Their nests are made of paper cartons with a round opening at the top.

Southern Yellow Jackets have a sting that can be painful but not life-threatening for humans, although it can be very serious for those with allergies.

To protect yourself from these wasps, wear long-sleeved shirts and pants outdoors. It would be best to avoid areas that are likely nesting sites for these types of wasps in North America.

14. Braconid Wasps

The 14th types of wasps in North America is the Braconid Wasp. As the name implies, these wasps are part of the Braconidae family and can range from a few millimeters to almost two centimeters long.

These tiny wasps usually have small, round heads and slender bodies with yellow or orange markings. 

Most Braconid Wasps are beneficial predators that feed on other insects, including caterpillars, aphids, and moths.

While they have stingers, they rarely use them against humans unless they feel threatened. Braconid Wasps are generally harmless and can even be beneficial regarding pest control.

In terms of physical characteristics, Braconid Wasps have a few unique features that help set them apart from other types of wasps in North America. These include their short antennae, long ovipositor, and transparent wings.

Additionally, they have many segments on their antennae, and their larvae are often found in silk cocoons on leaves or stems.

When looking for Braconid Wasps in your area, you can usually find them near shrubs or trees feeding on caterpillars or other insects.

While some might be intimidated by these wasps, it’s important to remember that they’re usually harmless and can even help keep your garden pest-free.

15. Potter Wasps

Potter wasps are types of wasps in North America. These creatures get their name from the distinctive mud-like nests they construct, which resemble pottery created by humans.

Potter wasps can be found in warm areas of the United States and Canada, especially in gardens and other outdoor areas.

These types of wasps in North America measure between 6 and 25 millimeters in length and come in various colors, such as black, yellow, orange, and brown. Potter wasps are solitary creatures that live alone or in small groups. 

These types of wasps in North America typically feed on small insects and nectar. Potter wasps are known for their distinct nesting behavior. They build their nests out of the mud and attach them to rocks, trees, or other structures.

The female wasp will use her saliva to create the pot before filling it with caterpillars or other food sources for her larvae. 

The female wasp will lay eggs inside the nest and then guard it until her offspring emerge as adults. While these wasps can sting if provoked, they are usually docile and not considered a threat to humans. 

Potter wasps can be beneficial around your home as they help keep other insect populations under control. If you see a potter wasp, it is best to leave it alone as it poses no threat to you.

16. Cuckoo Wasps

Regarding types of wasps in North America, the Cuckoo Wasp is one of the most interesting species. Native to the United States and Canada, these small-sized parasitic wasps are part of the Chrysididae family.

As their name implies, these wasps exhibit a cuckoo-like behavior in that they lay their eggs in the nests of other species of wasps, usually those from the Vespidae family.

Cuckoo Wasps are easily identifiable due to their bright metallic green and blue coloring and distinct black stripes. 

They measure about 5-12 millimeters in length and can be found in urban and rural areas. They are not particularly aggressive but will sting if provoked.

These parasitic wasps feed on nectar and pollen, while their larvae feed on the hosts’ larvae.

Therefore, they do not pose any significant threat to humans and are beneficial as they help control pest populations. However, they should still be avoided as a precaution.

17. Four-toothed Mason Wasp

The four-toothed mason wasp is one to know about when it comes to wasps in North America. The four-toothed mason wasp (Monobia quadriceps) is a species of potter wasp found in the eastern and central regions of the United States. 

Its name is derived from the four distinct teeth on its mandibles, and it can be identified by its dark body and orange or yellow markings.

These wasps are solitary, so they don’t have a hive or colony like other types of wasps. 

Instead, these types of wasps in North America construct mud nests on rocks, branches, and window sills. The female builds these nests by rolling bits of mud into tiny balls, which she then sticks together to form a hollow chamber. 

She uses this chamber to lay eggs, which eventually hatch into larvae. The larvae feed on stored prey items, such as spiders or caterpillars, that the female brings to the nest.

The four-toothed mason wasp does not sting humans, and it is considered beneficial because it feeds on pests like caterpillars and aphids. If you encounter one of these wasps, admire its beauty from a safe distance!

18. Great Black Wasp

The Great Black Wasp (Sphex pensylvanicus) is one of the more common types of wasp. This solitary species of wasp is typically black and yellow, measuring around an inch long.

These types of wasps in North America are usually found nesting in dry, sunny areas such as grassy areas, wood piles, and vacant buildings.

The female Great Black Wasp will hunt for food for her offspring, which includes grasshoppers, crickets, beetles, and caterpillars. She will then paralyze the prey using her sting and return it to her nest. 

The nest comprises a series of small cells that are sealed off with mud and lined with pieces of leaves and stems.

The Great Black Wasp is not known to be aggressive toward humans, but it can give a painful sting if provoked. The best way to avoid being stung is to leave them alone and let them do their own thing.

19. Horntail Wasp

The nineteenth types of wasps in North America is the Horntail Wasp. This large, black wasp has a distinctive, horn-like tail that sets it apart from other species of wasps. It is also striking due to its size—measuring 1-1.5 inches—and its bright yellow spots.

The Horntail Wasp is a solitary insect rarely seen in large groups. Its diet consists mainly of wood and decaying trees, but it may also feed on larvae, fruit, and nectar.

The female wasp lays eggs in dead wood, which is then fed upon by the larvae once they hatch. 

This type of wasp can sometimes be mistaken for the much larger Giant Horntail Wasp, but it can be easily distinguished by its larger size, more distinct horn-like tail, and yellow-brown coloring. 

Though these wasps are usually not aggressive, they may sting if they feel threatened. As such, it’s important to use caution when dealing with them and keep an eye out when outdoors in areas where they may be present.


There are various types of wasps in North America, and each type is unique. From the common yellow jacket to the cicada killer, there are plenty of species to watch out for.

No matter which type of wasp you encounter, it’s important to remember to be careful and take appropriate steps to avoid getting stung. 

Wasps can benefit the environment, so try to respect their presence and not disturb them. Understanding the types of wasps in North America can help you protect yourself, your family, and the environment.

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