Wasps are a family of insects that includes hornets, yellow jackets, and solitary wasps. This means that all hornets are wasps, but not all wasps are hornets. Although hornets are not native to the area, there are several U.S. pests that go by this name. The most common, bald-faced hornets, are not true hornets. They are close relatives of yellow jackets. The European variety, or giant hornets, are the only true hornets in the country. 

Some basic features set wasps apart from other stinging insects. Unlike bees, both wasps and hornets have smooth, glossy bodies and a thin, thread-like waist. They also have two sets of wings.

Despite the ways in which they are similar, these pests can have subtle distinctions or more broad differences depending on their species. Many wasps have black and yellow stripes or bright, metallic coloring. Hornets have a different, more understated look. Bald-faced hornets are black and white, and European hornets are brown, yellow, and black.

Shape is another way to distinguish between wasps and hornets. Most wasps are long and thin. Both U.S. species that go by the name hornet are identifiable by their thick bodies and rounded abdomens. European hornets are the largest wasps in the country, measuring over an inch long.

Most wasps build paper nests of varying size and shape. Bald-faced hornets create football-shaped nests, while paper wasps build smaller, open homes in sheltered places like the eaves of buildings. Still others, the Eastern yellowjacket, build ground hives using abandoned ground burrows dug by rodents and other small mammals.

Finding wasps or hornets in or near the house may lead to harmful encounters. Wasps and hornets can be aggressive. Unlike bees, these insects can sting repeatedly. Hornet venom causes a particularly painful reaction. Often, the stings result in swollen, red, and itchy areas on the skin.  Wasp or hornet stings can be life-threatening for allergic individuals.

While homemade traps are inexpensive and easy to make, they fail to reduce populations to an acceptable level. There are several commercial bait traps available, but they are not attractive to German yellowjackets which are the most common nuisance in  Ohio.  

Because of their unpredictable and aggressive nature, it is best to call a pest control professional to safely handle a wasp or hornet infestation. Complete Pest Solutions has trained experts ready to help.