There are several types of wasps that can be seen in yards, and they are easily confused with bees. Wasps can be identified by their slim waists and smooth, nearly hairless bodies. Bees tend to be hairy and don’t have defined waists. Some of the common wasps you could encounter include:
- Paper wasps: Paper wasps get their name from the paper-like nests they build. These distinctive nests are never enclosed, so the combs are visible. The wasps are brown with yellow markings.
- Yellow jackets: These well-known pests are between 3/8 and 5/8 inches long and have a black and yellow pattern. They may build their basketball-sized paper nests above ground, such as on houses or sheds. They may also build nests near the ground, like on logs or timber.
- Bald faced hornets: Despite their name, bald faced hornets are actually wasps, not true hornets. Their bodies are mostly black, and their faces are white. Their beach ball sized paper nests can be seen hanging from trees, over hangs, and utility poles.
Wasps sting when they feel threatened. If you find nests in out-of-the-way parts of your yard, or high in a tree, avoidance may be the best strategy. When cooler weather arrives in the fall, the wasps will die off, and the paper nests will disintegrate.
Wasps don’t need to nest in your yard to cause problems. Foraging yellow jackets may fly into your yard in their search for food. They’re attracted to sweet foods and drinks, like soda and fruit. To avoid attracting yellow jackets, keep food and drinks covered during picnics and barbecues. Remove trash promptly, and use garbage cans with tight lids.