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Wasps vs. Hornets

What’s the Difference Between Wasps and Hornets?

It can be difficult to tell if you are dealing with a wasp or hornet issue at first, because the pests and their nests have some similar traits. However, there are a few important distinctions to keep in mind when comparing hornets vs. wasps.

Appearance and Hornet vs Wasp Size


paper wasp image
Two common types of wasps in New England are yellow jackets and paper wasps. Both pests have yellow and black stripes on their abdomens. However, paper wasps have slender, segmented bodies with long legs that hang down during flight. A yellow jacket flies with its limbs tucked beneath a thick lower body and defined waist.


Bald-faced hornets have distinct black and white markings on their faces and abdomens. They average about a quarter-inch in length. Giant European hornets are around one and a half inches long and typically have orange, yellow, or brown stripes. Some hornets also have large mandibles that help them peel the bark from trees.


Another consideration when comparing wasps vs. hornets is diet. While wasps tend to scavenge human food at cookouts, hornets are more likely to prey on insects. Many gardeners find hornets beneficial, as the pests eat caterpillars and flies that are harmful to plants.

Honet Nests vs Wasp Nest


Paper wasps chew wood fiber and use it as a thin paste to build their nests in window frames, garages, and attics. These umbrella-shaped nests usually hang from a short stem. Yellow jackets often live underground in unused burrows, although some species will hide their nests in wall voids.


Hornets also create their spherical, grayish-brown nests from a mixture of chewed wood and saliva. You might spot one of these large structures hanging from a tree or bush, though porches and eaves also serve as suitable shelter. A strong outer casing protects the inner layers of the nest. The main difference between a hornet nest vs a wasp nest is what’s inside, of course.

Dealing with Infestations

A hornet or wasp nest near your home could be a serious issue. Both insects can sting multiple times, making them a danger to those with allergies. A wasp vs hornet sting – both are painful and both can be serious for those who are allergic. But to know how to identify yellow jackets vs wasps vs hornets, you want a professional that is backed by a Board Certified Entomologist because at the end of the day, all you want is for them to be gone. If you have a wasp or hornet problem, call Waltham Pest Services and speak to a professional.

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