What are the different types of wasps?

Appearance

Wasps are in the insect order Hymenoptera and have 4 distinct stages – egg, larvae, pupae and adult. Eggs are small, white and cylindrical-shaped. Larvae are without legs, whitish-colored and grub-like. Pupae are the unwinged, cocoon-like stage. Adults are extremely variable in appearance and color, depending on the wasp species.

Types of Wasps

Wasps are broadly categorized as social wasps, solitary wasps and parasitic wasps. The general commonality between these three groups of wasps is they all are predators or parasites of other insects and spiders or are opportunistic, omnivorous feeders known as scavengers. Wasp nests are constructed either above or below ground.

Solitary Wasps

The solitary wasps do not produce a communal insect colony; rather, they operate on their own. Solitary wasps make nests in the ground; gouge out holes in plants; make mud nests (the mud daubers); or reuse existing nests. The female wasp constructs the nest; goes hunting to collect prey; captures and paralyzes the prey; then returns to the nest where she lays an egg on the prey; finally sealing the prey in a nest cell. After the egg hatches, the offspring feed on the prey until becoming adults. While some of the solitary wasps look terrifying, they are not aggressive and will sting only if handled or perhaps accidently stepped on. A solitary wasp worth mentioning is the velvet ant, which is not actually an ant. The female is wingless, hairy, colored red and black and found in the southern and western parts of the U.S. She can produce a severe sting if stepped on or handled.

Social Wasps

Social wasp colonies are established annually, but die off in the late-fall leaving behind only some fertilized queens. These queens will survive the winter and begin a new colony the next spring. Nests are constructed of “paper” the wasp makes from chewed up wood mixed with the wasp’s saliva. Social wasp nests can be either above or below ground level. The most common social wasps are the yellow jackets, the group of wasps most likely to sting, and the hornets. Social wasp colonies are communal in nature

Parasitic Wasps

The parasitic wasps lay their eggs in or on other insects and the wasp larvae consume and kill the host. They are non-aggressive – stinging only when handled. Their sting produces very little pain. Parasitic wasps are beneficial as they help control a wide variety of pest insects of crops, gardens and landscape plants.

Control

While there are many do-it-yourself techniques and materials for wasp control, the safest and most effective methods and recommendations are provided by a pest management professional (PMP). Always be sure to seek the advice of your PMP before trying on your own.