What's the difference between...
Hornets and wasps?
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one category of insect
If you live in the United States, you’ve likely heard the names “hornet” and “wasp” used interchangeably. The fact is, although they technically refer to different categories of insect, they can also accurately describe the same species.
You might be scratching your head. How can they be different insects and the same insect?
Hornets are actually a subset of wasps. So if you’re identifying a hornet, you’re by definition also identifying a wasp. The two names refer to two different but inextricably related categories of insect (one general and one specific).
As you’d imagine, this closeness is confusing in a lot of situations. All the more so because there are several species of both wasps AND hornets. When most people discuss wasps, however, they’re referring to “paper wasps”. These are the same wasps that create paper thin nests on the sides of buildings.
Ironically, although they carry a bad stigma, paper wasps are typically not aggressive and oftentimes help to eliminate other pests. So if you see a wasp’s nest on the back of your shed or some other structure that receives very little foot traffic, it might not necessarily be a bad thing (depending upon the species).
Why are hornets different?
There are approximately 20 species of hornets worldwide. As mentioned above, although all hornets are wasps, not all wasps are hornets. So what’s the difference between hornets and non-hornet wasps?
First off, hornets exclusively have a taste for other insects. Wasps DO predate on other insects, but they are also known to have a sweet tooth for nectar.
Secondly, hornets build “aerial nests”. In other words, nests that are elevated. “Paper wasps” are the same in general. But not all wasps exhibit this behavior. There are some, for instance, that live underground.
Lastly, hornets are incredibly social insects. Wasps, by and large, are not social (except when it comes to hornets).
If you come across an elevated nest of wasps that seem to exhibit strong social cohesion, you’re likely looking at a hornet’s nest. If you find wasps that seem to be somewhat solitary and don’t have an elevated nest, it’s likely a non-hornet species.
If you’re looking for physical characteristics, take a look at the head of the wasp. If it has a reddish brown head, it’s likely a hornet. If it has some other colored head, it’s likely a non-hornet wasp (as wasps come in a variety of shapes and colors).
Regardless of whether it’s a non-hornet wasp’s or hornet’s nest that’s attached itself to your home, you’ll likely want to remove it. Especially if it’s in close proximity to people.
What should I do next?
Give us a call at (269) 424-3458. We’d be happy to walk you through both the removal AND prevention process. If someone in your family is allergic to bees or wasps in general, keep them away from the nest(s) until we’ve had a chance to come in and remove the danger.
As mentioned above, hornets can actually beneficial by removing pests like ticks and flies from your property. If the nest does not intersect in any way with the activities of people in your home, you might want to consider keeping it. If it’s attached to your home, however, you’ll want to give us a call right away.
We’re here to assist! Give us a call at (269) 424-3458!