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Paper Wasp or Yellow Jacket: What’s Bugging You?

Do you feel your home has been invaded by an army of yellow and black stinging insects? Considering the dangers of yellow jacket wasps, you may be right to feel concerned. However, your uninvited guests may be paper wasps that have no interest in you and your family. In fact, if you have a garden, you may want to allow your paper wasp colony to thrive. But how do you accurately identify such similar insects?

Distinguishing Behavior

Both yellow jackets and paper wasps display these commonalities:

  • Form colonies that last one year
  • Create nests by chewing plant and wood fiber which they form into a nest structure with many holes.
  • Are predatory omnivores, meaning they hunt other insects but will also eat nectar.

While they have this much in common, you can tell them apart by the following behaviors.

Yellow Jackets

Yellow jackets scavenge meat in addition to hunting other insects, such as spiders, which is why you often see them at picnics. You may not notice any around your patio until you stoke up your grill. Once they detect delicious meat, yellow jackets tend to come out in numbers.

Yellow jackets also nest in the ground, often in abandoned rodent burrows, although some varieties will build their hives above ground. When they do, they usually build their nests with an outer shell for protection rather than the open, umbrella-shaped nests of paper wasps.

The most important difference is the aggressive tendencies of yellow jackets to sting. If they feel in any way threatened, they won't hesitate to sting. Unfortunately, when they nest in the ground, just passing by can be viewed as a provocation.

Paper Wasps

Paper wasps, on the other hand, prefer live meat, going after pestiferous insect larvae with voracious appetites. While they will sting if you actively threaten the hive, mostly they just want to eat the larvae of insects that damage your garden. Because they efficiently wipe out infestations of undesirable bugs — and do a little pollinating, too — you may wish to avail yourself of their excellent pest control capabilities rather than eradicate them.

The most important difference is the aggressive tendencies of yellow jackets to sting. If they feel in any way threatened, they won't hesitate to sting. Unfortunately, when they nest in the ground, just passing by can be viewed as a provocation.

Distinguishing Physical Features

While very similar in appearance at first glance, you can tell them apart by the following differences.

Yellow Jackets

  • Black antennae
  • Thicker waists
  • Wider wings
  • Retracted legs in flight

Paper Wasps

  • European variety has orange antennae
  • Longer bodies
  • Significantly more black than yellow
  • Darker wings
  • Dangling legs when in flight
  • Very narrow waists making a sectional appearance

The aggressive nature of yellow jackets can threaten your family and virtually eliminate your ability to enjoy your patio in the summertime. You definitely should try to control them. However, the insect control benefits of paper wasps override the minuscule odds of attack. If your family has no member allergic to the venom of stinging insects, you should seriously consider allowing paper wasps to flourish. If you're having a tough time telling them apart, give us a call at Perfection Pest Control. We can accurately identify wasps and offer expert advice. Please give us a call today!

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