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Types of Wasps


Wasps are fascinating insects that play important roles in our ecosystem. While they may be known for their painful stings, it's essential to understand that not all wasps are created equal. In fact, there are various types of wasps, each with its unique characteristics and behaviors. Most are flying insects, however there are a few species that crawl on the ground. Let's explore some of the most common types of wasps you might encounter.

1. Yellow Jackets

Southern Yellow Jackets are perhaps the most notorious type of wasp due to their aggressive nature and painful sting. These wasps are easily recognizable by their bright yellow and black markings. They typically build their nests in underground burrows or aerial locations such as trees or buildings.

Yellow Jacket wasps are social insects that live in colonies with adult wasps consisting of a queen, workers, and drones. They feed on a variety of food sources, including other insects, fruits, and sugary substances. It's important to exercise caution around yellowjacket nests to avoid getting stung.

2. Paper Wasps

Paper wasps get their name from the distinctive papery nests. European paper wasp, red paper wasps and northern paper wasps are the most common. Many people think these only include wasps with a red body, however it is a large family of insects with much variation. These nests can often be found hanging from tree branches, eaves, or other protected areas. Unlike yellowjackets, paper wasps are generally less aggressive unless provoked. They also show intricate nest-building skills, usually being built in a protected area.

These slender wasps have long legs and narrow waists, making them easily distinguishable from other species. They primarily feed on nectar but also prey on small insects to nourish their larvae which live in their paper-like nests which help keep pest populations under control.

3. Mud Dauber Wasps

Mud daubers, also known as potter wasps or thread waisted wasps, are solitary wasps known for their impressive nest-building skills using mud or clay as building materials. Their nests resemble cylindrical tubes attached to walls or other structures. Mud daubers have elongated bodies with a narrow thorax and can range in color from black to metallic blue.

These non-aggressive wasps feed on nectar and pollen but also capture spiders as food for their offspring, so they are considered to be beneficial insects. While mud daubers may look intimidating, they rarely sting unless directly threatened.

4. Hornets

Hornets are larger wasps known for their potent stings and aggressive behavior when defending their nests. They usually build large, aerial nests made of paper-like material. Hornets can be identified by their size, with some species reaching up to two inches in length. Baldfaced hornets are one of the most common and most aggressive.

These social insects live in colonies and feed on a wide range of food sources, including other insects and tree sap. It's essential to exercise extreme caution around hornet nests as their stings can cause severe allergic reactions in some individuals.

5. Cicada Killers

Cicada killers are solitary wasps that specialize in hunting cicadas as a food source for their larvae. These large wasps have a robust body structure and can grow up to two inches long. They are typically black or brown with yellow markings.

Despite their intimidating appearance, cicada killers are generally not aggressive towards humans unless provoked or handled. They dig burrows in the ground where they lay eggs on paralyzed cicadas for the larvae to feed on.

6. Less common types of Wasps

Spider wasps are considered a beneficial insect that helps keep spider populations in check.

Cuckoo Wasps are usually emerald in color and lay their eggs either as a parasite to a victim insect, or as a cleptoparasite, meaning the larvae steals the food source from the host.

Velvet ants are actually a type of wingless wasp but their sting packs a punch, giving them the nick name cow killer wasps.

If you feel you are struggling with wasps, professional help is recommended to treat your issue due the the dangerous nature of some of the types of wasps.

Removing Wasp Nest

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