Wasps are often misidentified as bees. The easiest way to identify a wasp correctly is to look for these basic characteristics:
Two pairs of wings
- Stinger (only in females)
- Few or no thickened hairs
- Land-based (a rare few are aquatic)
- Predatory or parasitical. Wasps prey on insects usually spiders.
Three Common Wasps Found in North America
Three common wasps found in North America are paper wasps, yellow jackets, and bald-faced hornets.
Yellow jackets are found throughout North America, are highly aggressive, and can sting more than once. Yellowjackets are social wasps that build nests underground, in hollow trees, and cracks and crevices of buildings. Yellowjackets get their name from the bright yellow and black stripes on their bodies.
Paper wasps are also social wasps, living in colonies of between 20 and 30 adults. Paper wasps are usually docile and will only sting if the nest is disturbed. They get their name from the honeycombed paper-like nests they construct. Nests are usually found in trees and shrubs and hanging from the eaves of homes, barns, and other buildings.
Bald-faced hornets are most common in the Southeastern United States. They are larger than either the yellow jacket or paper wasp and are black and white in color. Like the paper wasp, they build large, up to three feet tall, nest in trees, shrubs, and from the eaves of buildings.
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