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Identifying the Differences Between Wasps, Hornets and Yellow Jackets

wasp on branch

Nothing interrupts a warm summer day like the angry buzzing of a bug. When you see a black and yellow insect flying around, you may immediately think of a wasp, but there are actually more than 20,000 species of this bug!

Wasps, hornets and yellow jackets all have unique characteristics that make them different from one another.

Learn how to tell these bugs apart so you know which one you are dealing with when they fly into your yard.



Although most people think they are the same, wasps and hornets are very different.

The worst part about a wasp is its stinger, which doesn’t fall off after it stings you. If a wasp feels threatened, it will sting without hesitation. If a wasp is near you, don’t swat at it and calmly walk away from it.

What Do Wasps Look Like?

Size is the biggest difference when looking at wasps vs. hornets. Hornets are bigger than wasps with a wider body and very little hair.

Wasps have a body that is pinched at the waist. They come in colours that range from orange, yellow, and white.

Where Do Wasps Live?

When looking for a wasp nest, look in places like bushes, gutters, and fences. A wasp nest looks like an upside-down umbrella.

Wasps are meat-eaters, so they often build a nest where discarded food is present. If meat isn’t around, wasps will eat spilled drinks or flowers.


The largest of this type of stinging bug are hornets. These common pests can also sting you more than once if they feel threatened. A hornet sting can cause severe allergic reactions in some people.

What Do Hornets Look Like?

Hornets are big and are more reddish-brown in colour. They have a yellow striped abdomen and a black and white pattern on their face.

Where Do Hornets Live?

Hornets live in any hollowed-out area like trees or barns. Certain hornets, like bald-faced hornets, like to nest in more exposed areas. They favour places like tree branches and eaves.

Yellow Jackets

Yellow jackets are a common species of wasp. They can sting like a hornet and cause pain in their victims. Yellow jackets love sweets and will swarm to anything that has a sweet taste or smell.

What Do Yellow Jackets Look Like?

You can identify a yellow jacket by the thin waist and hairless body. They have a black head with a black and yellow patterned body.

Where Do Yellow Jackets Live?

These insects like to build their nests underground. Many times they will use old animal burrows for their home.

Know the Difference Between Wasps, Hornets and Yellow Jackets

When it comes to wasps vs. hornets vs. yellow jackets, none are insects you want to run into on a nice summer day. Knowing the difference between these insects will help you understand how to react.

If you have a problem with any of these pests, The Bugman Pest Control can help! Contact us today for professional pest control and removal services in Kelowna, Penticton, Vernon and throughout the Okanagan.



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