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How to Identify Stinging Insects

What’s the difference between a wasp and a mud dauber? How well do you know your stinging insects? This guide will help you recognize them better and know what to expect.

The term “wasps” includes yellowjackets, hornets, paper wasps, and mud daubers.

Paper Wasps

Get Rid of Paper wasps

How To Identify Paper Wasps:

  • Grow up to ¾” to 1” long
  • Predominantly brownish-black with yellow to red markings along head and abdomen, not to be confused with the striping pattern found on yellowjackets
  • Can be found all throughout North America
  • Like to build their nests near buildings, under eaves, and closer to the ground on sturdy plants.
  • Nests are made of paper or similar materials
  • A mature nest typically contains 20 to 75 adults
  • Like other wasp species, paper wasps don’t sting unless they feel like their colony is being threatened. They tend to swarm if they feel their colony is being threatened.


Get rid of hornets

How To Identify Hornets:

  • Average size is 1¼” 
  • Predominantly black with light yellow or white stripes more structured than those of yellowjackets
  • Prevalent throughout North America
  • Build their nests out of paper and paper-like materials
  • Locate nests most often on sturdy plants or high trees, but sometimes near buildings and homes
  • A social species of wasp which tends to behave like yellowjackets and paper wasps. Does not sting unless provoked
  • A mature nest can house 200 to 700 adults 


Get Rid of Yellowjackets

How To Identify Yellowjackets:

  • Grow to about 3/8” to 5/8”
  • Yellow and black pattern that appears striped along its body
  • American yellowjackets are mainly found in the Southeast
  • Their nests can be found inside structures, hanging from structures, and in the ground
  • Live in colonies and work to fertilize the queen wasp’s eggs and build a nest to protect the entire group
  • A mature colony can contain 1,000 to 5,000 adults

Mud Daubers

Get rid of Mud daubers

How To Identify Mud Daubers:

  • Average size is ½” to 1” long
  • Predominantly black with yellow markings on legs and thorax
  • Significantly thinner bodies than those of other wasps
  • Native to North America 
  • Mud daubers are solitary wasps and do not live in colonies or build nests together with other wasps
  • Builds smaller nests for itself and offspring
  • Builds nest out of mud, usually placed near buildings
  • Docile until provoked
  • Does not swarm
How to Identify a Wasps Nest

How Can I Identify the Nest Type?

  • Paper wasps: This is an open nest with hexagonal cells. It usually has an umbrella shape and may contain fewer than 100 paper wasps.
  • Hornets: A hornet nest has a football shape surrounded by smooth walls.
  • Bees: Beehives are recognizable by their distinctive waxy appearance.
  • Yellowjacket wasps: You can spot a yellowjacket wasp nest by the activity around the nest. You’ll see wasps going back and forth to a concealed location. These nests can contain thousands of wasps!

 Get rid of stinging insects

Do’s and Don’ts When Dealing with Wasps:

Wasp behavior changes in late summer as their preferred food shifts from sugars to proteins. Because of this, you will more than likely encounter them wherever food is consumed outdoors and around garbage collection areas.

If you notice large numbers of wasps in your home or garden, there is likely a wasp nest in the vicinity. It may be in your house, in your garden, or somewhere else very close by.

A mature nest in summer/autumn can contain thousands of wasps. When they do attack, most wasps, yellowjackets, and hornets are aggressive and will sting REPEATEDLY.


    How to Prevent Wasps in Your Yard

    What Should I Do if I’m Attacked?


    • Always remain still if a wasp approaches you.
    • If you have to run away, do so in a straight line, without flailing your arms.
    • Protect your head and face, as these areas are most likely to be targeted by the wasps.


    • If you swat at the wasp or swing your arms, you’ll only make it more aggressive and more likely to sting you.
    • Do not try to fool wasps by “playing dead”. They will simply continue stinging you!
    • Do not seek shelter in a body of water, as the wasps will simply wait for you to re-emerge.

    How to Prevent Wasp Stings

    What You Should Know About Wasp Stings

    The following tips can help you avoid painful wasp stings:

    • Carefully dispose of all food and drinks, especially soft drink cans.

    • Never leave sugary drinks unattended. Also, always check sugary drinks for wasps before consuming.

    • Keep all areas of your property clean and tidy.

    • Check for wasp activity before carrying out any gardening activity.

    • Avoid strong scents and bright clothing.

    • Protect your feet by wearing closed shoes.

    Check Out Our Post on How to Get Rid of Wasps Around Your Home and Yard

      Should I Remove a Wasp Nest Myself?

      It is important to treat a wasp nest as soon as possible. Removing a wasp nest is a complex process and requires professional help.

      To avoid the risk of painful wasp stings (and possible allergic reactions), it is strongly advised that you do NOT try to remove a wasp nest yourself.

      Remember, you could cause serious injury to yourself or others if you provoke the wasps in the nest.

      For more stinging insect control tips, click here.

      Do you fancy yourself an expert wasp remover? What are your secrets? Post a comment. We’d love to hear from you!



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