3 Ways to Identify Wasps

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3 Ways to Identify Wasps
3 Ways to Identify Wasps

The wasp family includes thousands of species worldwide, most of which are predatory. The most common types are hornets, yellow jacket wasps and paper wasps. Use the colors, shapes and shape of the nests to help you identify various wasp species. Also, knowing some basic differences between wasps and bees will help you tell them apart. This article will not talk about parasitoid wasps, as they are very small and an expert is needed to make the precise distinctions.


Method 1 of 3: Identifying Wasps by Physical Characteristics

Identify Wasps Step 1

Step 1. Look for yellow and black colors

Yellow jacket wasps (vespula and dolichovespula genera) and European paper wasps (Polistes Dominula) are identified by the yellow and black bands on the abdomen; some wasps of the genus Sphecius (informally known as “cicada-killing wasps”) are a type of burrowing wasp that looks like a larger “yellow jacket” wasp; the European wasp (Vespa crabro) is identified by its yellow and black striped tail, along with a reddish-brown chest; and some wasps of the Sphecidae and Crabronidae families also have black and yellow bodies (an example is the wasp of the genus Sceliphron, which is present practically all over the world).

The Sphecidae and Crabronidae families also contain black or blue-black wasps with a metallic appearance, just like the wasps of the Pompilidae family, including the famous spider-hunting wasp

Identify Wasps Step 2

Step 2. Identify wasps that have another coloration

North American paper wasps are golden with red and yellow spots. They differ from the wasp Dolichovespula maculata, which has a white face with white and black stripes on the body. Also look for the digger wasps, which have orange-brown, yellow and black bodies with metallic blue wings.

The wasps of the Mutillidae family, which look like ants, are black, furry, do not have wings and, in some areas of the body, have shades of bright red, yellow, orange or white

Identify Wasps Step 3

Step 3. Estimate the size of the wasp

The “yellow jacket” wasps are 1.3 cm long; Dolichovespula maculata is 2-3 cm long; the European wasp is 2 to 3.5 cm long. In the case of larger wasps, the hunting wasp is 2.5 to 6.4 cm; cicada killers are 3, 8 cm; paper wasps and Sceliphron wasps are usually 1, 3 to 2 cm long.

Identify Wasps Step 4

Step 4. Note the shape of the body

With a few rare exceptions, such as the European wasp, wasps can be identified by their smooth, hairless bodies and narrow waists. A “yellow jacket” has a short, narrow waist as well as a cone-shaped abdomen that tapers into a thin tip; the paper wasp has long legs and a shaft-shaped waist; the Scelephron has a very narrow waist, a long, slim body.

Method 2 of 3: Recognizing the nests

Identify Wasps Step 5

Step 1. Look for paper nests

Unlike bees, which build nests of wax, the “yellow jackets”, hornets and paper wasps make them with paper and saliva. The nests of the “yellow jackets” appear in gaps and empty spaces on the walls; hornets nest in trees, bushes and under the edges of buildings; paper wasps also nest on these eaves, but the nests are open at the top.

Identify Wasps Step 6

Step 2. Identify the Sceliphron wasp's mud nests

Look for long, cylindrical, tube-like nests on the sides of buildings, attics, porches, garages, garden furniture, and under unused equipment. Some of these nests may have a more irregular appearance, and since she uses mud to make the nest, look for it around drinking fountains, water puddles, ponds and well-watered lawns.

Identify Wasps Step 7

Step 3. Look for burrowing wasps buried in the ground

Watch out for pencil-sized burrows in sandy terrain with good drainage. There is usually very little vegetation around these burrows and these tend to appear in areas that receive direct sunlight.

Method 3 of 3: Understanding the Difference between Wasps and Bees

Identify Wasps Step 8

Step 1. Differentiate them by physical characteristics

Look at the insect's waist: Wasps actually have waists that look like a waist, while bees' “waist” is wider than their bodies. Next, check the fur: most wasps don't, as bees tend to be hairier as it helps them carry pollen. Finally, note the length: wasps are longer than most bees.

Identify Wasps Step 8

Step 2. Check the coloration

You will see the same basic colors in wasps and bees (yellow and black). However, wasps have more distinct colors and patterns than bees. In short, in terms of colors, wasps are brighter in color and bees are softer in color.

Identify Wasps Step 10

Step 3. Pay attention to the power

Wasps often eat other insects. An example is the “yellow jackets”, which are scavengers (they feed on the remains of dead things), but you will also see them eating or looking for human food and garbage. In the case of bees, they feed on pollen and nectar.

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