Working outside is great exercise and very good for you, but sometimes there are dangers that can be avoided. I´m talking about wasps, hornets, yellowjackets and all the other flying critters that are generally angry when we disturb them (bees will not be included since most of us know how to identify those). When working outside its good to know the differences between wasps just in case you happen to encounter one.

According to the Extension Service at UK wasps, bees and ants are all in the same order (Hymenoptera meaning “membrane wing”). There are two types of wasps: hive wasps and solitary wasps. Hive wasps include paper wasps, hornets, and yellowjackets. These all live in social colonies either below or above ground.

A paper wasp gathering wood for the nest

Paper Wasp (photo from UK Extension Service)

Paper wasps “are among the most common insects encountered around homes.  Paper wasp nests are usually built on tree limbs and under the eaves of homes.  Unlike the nests of hornets and yellow jackets, paper wasp nests are not completely enclosed.  Paper wasp nests are also usually smaller than the nests of hornets and yellowjackets.  Their are several paper wasp species in Kentucky, and most are about 1″ long with vivid red, black, orange, and yellow patterns” (Kentucky Insects, UK Extension Service).

We have two types of hornets in Kentucky, the Bald-Faced Hornet and the Giant Hornet (brought over by Europeans in the 1800s). “Hornets are typically not as common around homes as paper wasps and yellow jackets, preferring to make their nests in forests, meadows, and rural areas”.


Yellowjacket (R. Bessin, 2000)

Yellowjackets “have a bold black-and-yellow pattern and are usually 1/2-3/4″ long.  They build their nests underground in animal burrows or in hollow logs or wall voids.  Yellowjackets are common around humans, and sometimes cause problems at picnics and other outdoor activities”. Paper wasps, hornets and yellowjackets make up the hive wasps.

The other group of wasps is called solitary wasps. These wasps do not live in colonies and most of them are parasitic: “parasitic wasps are solitary wasps whose offspring feed on or inside other arthropods”. There are hundreds of solitary wasps, which we will not go over here. To see the full article click here.

Hopefully this information will help you as much as it did me. On Wednesday I got stung by two yellowjackets and had an allergic reaction. It certainly was not fun but at least I learned a little bit more about the world I live in.

Have you seen any wasps around your gardens? Comment below!

Happy Gardening!

(Featured Image taken from this link)