While entomologists, pest control professionals, and other experts can easily distinguish between bees, wasps and hornets, homeowners commonly misidentify these stinging insects. Many people are surprised to learn that yellow jackets and hornets are both wasps that are unique for their distinct appearance and their relatively aggressive behaviors. In fact, only one true hornet species can be found in the United States, and it’s not even native to North America. This hornet species is commonly known as the “European hornet,” and it was first discovered in the US during the 1800s when colonies were recovered in New York.

European hornets are abundant throughout the northeast where they are considered potentially dangerous pests due to their habit of establishing nests on residential properties. European hornet nests are known to establish nests in the ground, in tree hollows, tree branches, the exterior walls of homes, and even in attacks or wall voids. Another hornet species, the Asian giant hornet, was recently found in the US for the first time where it has become well known as the “murder hornet.” This hornet is not present in the northeast, and it may not become permanently established in the country.

One of the most commonly managed wasp pest species on residential properties in the northeast is a species commonly known as the “bald faced hornet.” Despite its common name, the bald faced hornet is actually a type of yellow jacket that is commonly found nesting on trees, shrubs and structures. Their nests are unique for growing to sizes as large or possibly larger than 14 inches in diameter and 24 inches in length, but initially, their nests are the size of a golf ball. Bald faced hornets will readily and viciously attack any animal or human that disturbs their nest, and given the size and prevalence of these nests on residential properties where they are often hidden in ornamental shrubs, these wasps are a major hazard near homes. Although yellow jackets including bald faced hornets are commonly managed by pest control professionals, they are actually the second most commonly managed stinging insects on residential properties following paper wasps.

Have you ever encountered an active wasp nest in your attic?