The main reason to be able to identify different kinds of wasps is to know which ones are aggressive and which ones won’t give you a problem. What do wasps do, and how can we identify them properly?
In other words, to distinguish between wasps that can be safely removed and those that must be eradicated while wearing protective clothing.
Wasps belong to the Superfamily Vespoldea. There are several lesser categories within this group. The family Eurnenidae is a non-aggressive, solitary creature that preys primarily on insects.
These are among the most beneficial wasps for the environment since they do play a role in controlling the ecosystem.
Belonging to the Subfamily Polistinae are docile wasps from the:
- Tribe Polistini (found all over the world),
- the Genus Polistes (also known as the docile paper wasps),
- the Tribe Polybiini (found in South America and Africa), and the
- Tribe Ropalidiini (found in tropics of the Old World).
The Subfamily Stenogastrinae is another group of docile wasps while the Subfamily Vespinae is the most aggressive. Genus Folichovespula is the name given to very aggressive hornets that make aerial nests.
There are four species found in North America:
- Wasps of the Genus Provespa family are nocturnal and there are three species found in Southeast Asia.
- The Genus Vespa is a docile but giant hornet with only one species found in North America. The Genus Vespula has twelve North American species.
These aggressive yellowjackets build large colonies and are deemed quite dangerous. All social wasps are predators, build nests, and thrive in colonies.
Yellowjackets, hornets, and paper wasps are the most aggressive and the most opportunistic in terms of what they prey upon. Feeding on insects, spiders, and even small animals, they are also the most likely to sting.
Social wasps build their nests from a mixture of wood pulp, saliva, and, in some instances, mud. They have working groups that are responsible for collecting food, building and guarding the best, and looking after the Queen and her hatching eggs.
The paper wasps, which are considered the most docile of the Vespidae family, are distinguishable from the other types of social wasps because they have thinner waists.
In particular, they have thinner waists than the yellowjackets and hornets. Paper wasps are most likely to be seen in the house or the garden.
Those with thin and long bodies, covered with bright yellow and black markings are likely to be mud-daubers.
These wasps, as their name suggests, build nests from mud. They predominantly prey on spiders. Yellowjackets typically grow to be around the same size as bees (between 13mm and 19mm on average).
They are great scavengers, which perhaps explains why they are particularly pesky. They bite as well as sting, although the sting is both the more painful and greater in terms of impact. Hornets have thin waists as well and behave similarly.
They are distinguishable from yellowjackets mainly because they build aerial nests and are also slightly less aggressive in the sense that they prey upon large grasshoppers, horseflies, flies, bees, and even yellowjackets, being less preoccupied with scavenging and, incidentally, less likely to attack human beings.