Wasps: Identification, Behavior, and Extermination Techniques

Wasps are flying insects belonging to the Hymenoptera order and the Apocrita suborder, a diverse group that includes over 30,000 species worldwide. The term “wasp” is typically used to refer to members of the Vespidae family, which encompasses various species known for their characteristic appearance and often defensive stings.


Latin Names

The Latin or scientific name for a common wasp is “Vespula vulgaris,” but there are numerous species and subspecies within the wasp family. For instance, the hornet, the largest species of social wasp, is known as “Vespa crabro.


Identifying wasps can be fairly straightforward due to their distinctive physical characteristics:

  • Size and Shape: Wasps vary significantly in size, ranging from nearly microscopic to several centimeters long. Their bodies are usually slender with a narrow waist (the petiole) connecting the thorax and abdomen.
  • Color: Many wasp species possess characteristic black and yellow stripes, although some can be predominantly one color, such as black or metallic blue.
  • Wings: Wasps have two pairs of wings, with the front wings larger than the rear pair. In rest, the wings are often folded longitudinally.
  • Stingers: Female wasps have a stinger, which is a modified ovipositor (egg-laying organ). It’s used primarily for defense, not for hunting prey.
Wasp Control

Bald-Faced Hornet (Dolichovespula maculata)

These large insects are notable for their striking black and white coloring and distinctive football-shaped nest. They are not true hornets but rather a type of yellowjacket.

Northern Paper Wasp (Polistes fuscatus)

The Northern Paper Wasp is known for its paper-like nests and is common in North America. It has a brownish-black body with lighter, yellow markings.

Mud Wasp (Sceliphron caementarium)

lso known as Mud Daubers, these solitary insects are known for their unique nests, made from mud. They are generally black or metallic-blue in color, with thin, elongated bodies and a thread-like waist.

Ground Digger Wasp (Sphex pensylvanicus)

Also known as the Great Golden Digger Wasp, these insects have a black body with golden wings and legs. They are solitary creatures that burrow in sandy soils to lay their eggs.

Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa)

These large, robust bees are named for their behavior of boring into wood to make their nests. They have a metallic sheen, and while females are typically black, males can be golden or green. Despite their intimidating size, they are generally not aggressive, and males lack stingers entirely. They are important pollinators for many flowering plants.

Wasp Behavior

Wasps can be categorized into two fundamental groups: solitary and social.

  • Solitary Wasps: As the name suggests, these wasps live and operate alone. Most wasps fall under this category, and many are parasitic or predatory.
  • Social Wasps: These wasps live in colonies that may number in the thousands. These species, such as “Vespula vulgaris” (common wasp) and “Vespa crabro” (hornet), are often what people refer to when discussing “wasps.”

Extermination Techniques

While wasps play crucial roles in ecosystems, such as controlling other pest populations and pollination, they can pose a risk to humans due to their stings. Here are some common extermination techniques:

  • Traps: Wasp traps baited with sugary substances or commercial pheromone attractants can be effective in controlling smaller populations.
  • Insecticides: For larger infestations, particularly of social wasps, insecticides can be used. It’s often safest to call a pest control professional for this, as disturbing a nest can provoke a mass attack.
  • Dusts: Insecticidal dusts can be effective when applied directly to the nest. These dusts stick to the wasps and are carried into the nest, poisoning the colony.
  • Natural Predators: Encouraging wasp predators, such as certain birds and insects, can be a natural form of control.


Remember, wasps are a vital part of our ecosystem. If they’re not posing a direct threat, consider leaving them alone. For problematic infestations, let the wasp control experts at Arete Pest Control help.