Bald-faced Hornets

By Paul Asman and Jill Lenoble [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
By The High Fin Sperm Whale (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

Bald-faced hornets, also commonly known as white-faced hornet, white-tailed hornet, blackjacket or bull wasp, are most active during the day. It actually belongs to a genus of yellowjackets in North America, but unlike many congeners it lacks yellow coloring. Instead, it is called a hornet in the American sense of a wasp that builds paper nests.

Their females are known for defending their hanging paper nests with repeated stings.

Identification

  • Size: 15 – 20mm (larger than most yellow jackets)
  • Color: Black body with a face marked in white, and three white tripes on the end of its abdomen
  • Characteristics:  Very protective of the nest and will sting repeatedly if it is disturbed. This wasp is more aggressive than most yellowjackets.
  • Nests: Football shaped, can get up to 14 inches in diameter and 23 inches in length.  Population of the nest varies from 100 to 700 individuals, averaging around 400.

Bumble Bees

bumble bee
Bumblebee October 2007-3” by AlvesgasparOwn work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Bumblebees are social insects which form colonies with a single queen; colonies are smaller than those of honey bees, consisting often of fewer than 50 individuals in a nest. Female bumblebees can sting, repeatedly, but generally ignore humans and other animals.

Identification

  • Size: varies depending on species, up to 1 inch long
  • Color: Have a warning coloration, often in bands, in combinations of black, yellow, orange/red, and white.
  • Characteristics:  Round bodies covered in soft hair, making them appear and feel fuzzy.  The female hind leg is modified to form a pollen basket.
  • Nests: Bumblebee nests may be found within tunnels in the ground made by other animals or in grass.  Nests often hold fewer than 50 individuals.

Carpenter Bees

carpenter bee nest, dig hole
By Tobyotter (Own work) [CC BY 2.0], via Flickr, image was cropped

Some are often mistaken for a bumblebee species, as they can be similar in size and coloration, though most carpenter bees have a shiny abdomen, while in bumblebees the abdomen is completely clothed with dense hair.  Male bees are often seen hovering near nests, and will approach nearby animals. However, males are harmless, since they do not have a stinger. Female carpenter bees are capable of stinging, but they are docile and rarely sting unless caught in the hand or otherwise directly provoked.

Identification

  • Size: up to 1 inch long
  • Color: Yellow thorax, black shiny abdomen.  Males of some species have a white or yellow face, whereas females do not.
  • Characteristics:  Looks similar to bumblebees but have a smooth abdomen instead of a fuzzy one
  • Nests: Nearly all species build their nests in burrows in dead wood, bamboo, or structural timbers, hence the name.

Cicada-killer Wasps

cicada-killer wasp

Often also referred to as the cicada hawk, the cicada killer is a large digger wasp species.  Cicada killers are large, solitary wasps which use cicadas as prey and provision their nests with cicadas.  In North America, they are sometimes called sand hornets, although they are not hornets.  Although cicada killers are large, female cicada killer wasps are not aggressive and rarely sting unless they are grasped roughly, stepped upon with bare feet, or caught in clothing, etc.  Males aggressively defend their perching areas on nesting sites against rival males but have no sting.

Identification

  • Size: 0.6 – 2 inches long
  • Color: Reddish and black areas on the thorax, and are black to reddish brown marked with light yellow stripes on the abdominal segments.  The wings are brownish.  Coloration resembles that of some yellow jacket and hornet species.
  • Characteristics: Thorax is hairy.  Females are somewhat larger than the males, and both are among the largest wasps seen in the eastern United States.  Cicada killers are solitary wasps.
  • Nests:

Honey Bees

honey bees
By Fir0002 (Own work) [GFDL 1.2], via Wikimedia Commons

Primarily distinguished by the production and storage of honey and the construction of perennial, colonial nests from wax.  Honey bees are social creatives and live in well-organized colonies, and do not require hibernation.

Identification

  • Size: 0.4 – 0.6 inches long
  • Color: Oval-shaped with golden-yellow colors and brown bands
  • Characteristics: Behave defensively when intruders are near their nests, but are able to sting only once.
  • Nests: Made from wax.

Mud Dauber Wasps

mud dauber wasp
By Sam Droege from Beltsville, USA [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
mud dauber wasp nest
By Keenan Pepper (originally posted to Flickr as Mud dauber nest) [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Mud dauber is a common name for wasps that make their brood nests with mud. There are many species of wasps referred to as mud daubers; some other common names are dirt daubers, organ-pipe wasps, mud wasps and potter wasps.

Because of the commonly-applied name and thusly belong to different families, mud daubers are variable in appearance, but most are long, slender wasps. They are not aggressive and unlikely to sting; however, don’t approach their nests without exercising extreme caution.

Identification

  • Size: 0.5 – 1 inch long
  • Color: Either completely black or blue metallic.  Some species have yellow or greenish markings on the body.
  • Characteristics: Body shape is typically “thread-waisted,” with some species possessing an extremely long and thin, stretched out looking body segment located between the thorax and abdomen.
  • Nests: Some species build nests in the shape of a cylindrical tube, resembling an organ pipe or pan flue, on vertical or horizontal faces of walls, cliffs, bridges, or other structures.  Other species build nests composed of a series of cylindrical cells that are plastered over to form a smooth nest about the size of a lemon and shape of an urn.  Another species of daubers forgo building nests altogether and simple use the abandoned nests of the other dauber species.

Paper Wasps

paper wasp
Polistes fuscatus” by Bruce J. Marlin – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons.
paper wasp nest
By Bob Peterson from North Palm Beach, Florida, Planet Earth! [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Paper wasps gather fibers from dead wood and plant stems, which they mix with saliva, and use to construct water-resistant nests made of gray or brown papery material. Paper wasps are also sometimes called umbrella wasps, due to the distinctive design of their nests.  Paper wasps will generally only attack if they themselves or their nest are threatened.  Their stings, however, can be quite painful.

Identification

  • Size: 0.7 – 1 inch long
  • Color: Narrow bodies, most commonly dark brown in color, with black wings and yellow markings.  Some species appear similar to yellow jackets in coloration.
  • Characteristics: Thorax is hairy.  Females are somewhat larger than the males, and both are among the largest wasps seen in the eastern United States.  Cicada killers are solitary wasps.
  • Nests: Characterized by having open combs with cells or brood rearing and a “petiole”, or constricted stalk, that anchors the nest.  Most wasps make nests from paper and the nests can be found in sheltered areas.

Yellow jackets

yellow jackets
By Richard Bartz, Munich aka Makro Freak (Own work) CC-BY-SA-2.5

Important predators of pest insects.  All females are capable of stinging repeatedly.

Identification

  • Size: 10 – 16 mm in length
  • Color: Alternating black and yellow body segments, although some may exhibit white and black coloration
  • Characteristics: In contrast to the bee, the yellow jacket’s waist is thinner and defined.  Their elongated wings are as long as the body and fold laterally when at rest.  Their flight pattern is a characteristic rapid side-to-side movement prior to landing.
  • Nests: Many yellow jackets are ground-nesters.  Colonies can be found under porches or steps, in sidewalk cracks, around railroad ties, or at the base of trees.  Some species build aerial nests in bushes or low-hanging branches or in the corners of buildings.