Wasp Identification Guide

Learn What Wasps & Their Nests Look Like

  Print Article By DoMyOwn staff


There are many species of wasps in the US. Some species of wasps are actually beneficial and help control insect pests that infest food crops and help pollinate plants. Other species of wasps are considered pests because they can build a nest with hundreds of workers in the colony which can pose a potential threat to humans and animals if the nest is disturbed. The most common pest wasp species are yellow jackets, paper wasps, red wasps, mud daubers, and ground wasps. Wasps vary in the way they look tremendously depending on the species but they do have some distinguishing features.
Pro Tip

Cicada killer wasps are among the largest in the wasp family in the US. Though these wasps are very large and can seem quite scary, they are not social so they are not known to attack in groups. In fact, very few cicada killer wasp stings have ever been reported. Cicada killer wasps are beneficial as they prey on pest insects which helps provide free pest control for the property they inhabit.
There is actually only one confirmed species of hornets in the US, the European Hornet. The bald faced hornet is actually a poorly named species of wasp. While hornets can be larger than wasps and therefore a bit scarier, they are actually treated in the same way.

Pest wasp species range in size from about 1/4" - 1" long.

  • Wasps have two set of wings
  • Wasps have 6 legs
  • Wasps have a "pinched in" waist
  • Wasps have antennae
  • Female wasps have ovipositors (stingers) which are used to lay eggs and to sting when threatened
  • Wasps have chewing mouthparts called mandibles to chew prey and other food sources

Wasps vary in color from black and yellow to metallic blue to dull red/orange and even solid black.

Each species of wasp build different types of nests, each one unique to that particular species. Some nests are open on the bottom allowing you to see the activity within, some are balloon shaped and enclosed. Other wasps excavate soil and build their nests underground or even inside of dead trees.

Wasp nests that are built on structures can cause damage or discoloration to the structure. Most wasp damage from nests is temporary and can be washed or scrubbed away.

Wasps can be found in every city and state in the US.

238 of 273 people found this article informative and helpful.

Was this article informative and helpful to you?   Yes No

Next Inspect