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How to Identify Stinging Insects

When it comes to pests, stinging insects can clear a space quicker than most. Common stinging insect species include paper wasps, yellow jackets, hornets, and mud daubers. Though these pests are considered wasps, there are things that separate them from one another. We’ve gathered information to help you identify stinging insects.

Which Stinging Insect Are You Seeing? infographic

What Do Paper Wasps Look Like?

Paper wasp

Paper wasps have long legs and a thin waist. They are dark brown with yellow markings. Some species of paper wasps can have red markings. Their wings are black. These wasps grow between 5/8ʺ-3/4ʺ.

What Do Hornets Look Like?

Bald-faced hornet

Hornets can be identified by their pointed body. They have two pairs of wings. European hornets are reddish-brown and have yellow stripes. They are about 1ʺ in length. Bald-faced hornets are black with white markings. They grow between 1/2ʺ-3/4ʺ.

What Do Yellow Jackets Look Like?

Yellow jacket

Yellow jackets are usually black and yellow, though some have white markings. They grow between 3/5ʺ-5/8ʺ. They have a thin waist with wings that are as long as their body. These pests don’t have hair, which can help distinguish them from bees.

What Do Mud Daubers Look Like?

Mud Dauber

Mud daubers have a black or blue body. Some species are black and yellow, while others will have a metallic blue appearance. Their wings are dark or clear. These pests are very thin and grow between 1/2ʺ-1ʺ.

How to Identify Stinging Insect Nests

Hornet nest

Stinging insects are known for building nests. Knowing what their nest looks like can help you identify the species.  

  • Paper Wasp Nest: These nests are constructed from plant material and have a paper-like appearance. They can be gray or brown and have hexagonal cells. These nests are known for their umbrella shape.
  • Hornet Nest: Hornets have teardrop-shaped nests. They are made from wood pulp and have a paper-like appearance. These nests typically have one entry point and consist of hexagonal combs.
  • Yellow Jacket Nest: Yellow jacket nests can become quite large housing 1000s of pests. They have hexagonal cells and a papery appearance. These nests have one round entry point.
  • Mud Dauber Nest: Mud daubers are the only pests on this list that make nests from mud. Their nests consist of cylinder-shaped tubes.

Where Do Stinging Insects Build Nests?

Yellow jacket nest

If you suspect a stinging insect infestation, you’ll need to track down the nest. Each species has preferred nesting spots. Check out where you can find stinging insect nests.

  • Paper Wasp Nest Location: Paper wasps like to build nests in your yard. They often opt for tree limbs and shrubs. They will also build nests in attics, under windowsills, on doorframes, and in wall voids.
  • Hornet Nest Location: Hornets prefer shady and sheltered locations. European hornets place their nests at least 6 feet above the ground in trees, attics, and wall voids. Bald-faced hornets build nests at least 3 feet above the ground in trees, bushes, and on roofs.
  • Yellow Jacket Nest Location: These stinging insects prefer to build nests underground. You can often find entrance holes near the base of trees, cracks in sidewalk, and under steps. Sometimes, they will construct nests in bushes.
  • Mud Dauber Nest Location: Mud daubers like sheltered areas. You’re likely to spot their nests in attics, sheds, or on porch ceilings.

Being able to correctly identify these pests will make it easier to eliminate an infestation. If you’re dealing with stinging insects, we have your back! Check out our Maggie’s Farm Simply Effective™ Wasp & Hornet Killer for a more environmentally and family-friendly solution.


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