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How to tell a wasp from a yellowjacket

It's one of the most common questions we get: How to tell a wasp from a yellowjacket

The most common type of paper wasp is the European paper wasp. European paper wasps are yellow and black, and they sting -- so they are frequently mistaken for yellowjackets.

From their appearance, to their nests, to their behavior, here are five key ways to distinguish the two insects from each other. 

PAPER WASPS vs. YELLOWJACKETS

 

Paper wasp appearance: 

Paper wasps have slender, segmented bodies with a thin waist. Paper wasps also have orange-tipped antennae.

Paper wasps have slender, segmented bodies with a thin waist. Paper wasps also have orange-tipped antennae.

Yellowjacket appearance:

Yellowjackets have shorter and thicker bodies than paper wasps. Yellowjackets have black antennae.

Paper wasps in flight:

Paper wasps dangle their long legs when they fly.

Paper wasps dangle their long legs when they fly.

Yellowjackets in flight: 

Yellowjackets tuck their legs under their bodies when they fly.

Yellowjackets tuck their legs under their bodies when they fly.

 

Paper wasp nests:

Paper wasp nests resemble an open honeycomb or upside-down umbrella. They often build their nests on man-made structures such as eaves or lawn furniture.

Paper wasp nests resemble an open honeycomb or upside-down umbrella.

Yellowjacket nests:

Yellowjacket nests have a single opening that is often hard to see because the nest is underground. Some species of yellowjackets will construct nests in wall voids or exposed under eaves of houses.

Yellowjacket nests have a single opening that is often hard to see because the nest is underground.

Paper wasp behavior:

Paper wasps feed on damaged fruits and can be found on flowers looking for nectar. They do some pollination, but are not efficent because they don't have fuzzy bodies on which pollen can stick. They scrape wood from structures to make their nests. 

Paper wasps feed on damaged fruits and can be found on flowers looking for nectar.

Yellowjacket behavior:

Yellowjackets are picnic pests; they're drawn to protein sources, such as grilled meat. They also go after sweet liquids like soda and juice. Instead of visiting flowers for pollination, yellowjackets go after other insects.

Yellowjackets are picnic pests; they're drawn to protein sources, such as grilled meat. They also go after sweet liquids like soda and juice.

 

Paper wasp aggression:

Paper wasps are generally docile and avoid humans; they usually will sting if the nest is disturbed. They can sting repeatedly.

Paper wasps are generally docile; they will sting if the nest is disturbed.

Yellowjacket aggression:

Yellowjackets are more aggressive than paper wasps. They defend their nest, but will also sting unprovoked. They are prone to swarm attacks if their nest is threatened.

Yellowjackets are more aggressive than paper wasps. They defend their nest, but will also sting unprovoked.

To catch paper wasps, the best product is the TrapStik® for Wasps

To catch yellowjackets, you can either use our Reusable Yellowjacket Trap or Disposable Yellowjacket Trap.

If you have both paper wasps and yellowjackets, our W·H·Y® Trap captures both. 

Where to buy RESCUE!® Traps for Wasps and Yellowjackets.