The sting from a wasp or hornet is painful and can even be dangerous for those individuals who suffer allergic reactions. Finding wasps around your property may be an unwelcome sight but it is important to understand that not all stinging insects pose a threat to humans. In fact many varieties are beneficial to the environment. When it comes to species, wasps are typically divided into two distinct groups – solitary and social. Examples of solitary wasps include mud daubers, spider wasps and sand wasps. Social wasps include yellow jackets, hornets and paper wasps.
Do Solitary Wasps Sting?
Just as the name implies, solitary wasps tend to stick to themselves. They build nests solely to support their own offspring unlike social wasps who build nests to support large colonies. Solitary wasps are passive and very rarely sting unless the nest is threatened. The mud dauber is one of the most common species of solitary wasps and eats a diet that consists mainly of spiders. In fact the black widow spider which is venomous to humans is a particular favorite on the mud dauber’s dinner menu. Sand wasps burrow into the ground to build loosely packed nests. Their diet consists of insects including flies, which they stuff into the nest before laying their eggs. The flies become a food source for the larvae as the begin to hatch. Solitary wasps rarely sting unless mishandled or trapped against the skin. The venom of solitary wasps is different from that of social wasps and rarely causes more than momentary pain.
Are Social Wasps Aggressive?
Species of social wasps include hornets, paper wasps and yellow jackets. They typically live in large nests which support hundreds of workers. Hornets exist on a diet of house flies, caterpillars and other insects. Yellow jackets are considered scavengers and will feast on garbage. Unlike their passive cousins’ social wasps are extremely aggressive and will sting when disturbed, even vibrations such as those associated with a lawn mower can cause them to sting. Yellow jackets, paper wasps, and hornets are attracted to water and are often found around bird baths, ponds, and swimming pools. They are also attracted to a variety of human foods and have a fondness for anything sweet including soft drinks. Strong odors such as hair spray, perfume, body lotion, and other products containing perfumes and dyes can also attract them.
Yellow Jacket, Hornet & Paper Wasp Habitat & Behavior
Yellow jackets include several species that are known to build nests on the ground while other species of yellow jackets prefer to build nests in rotting tree stumps and areas close to water sources. Hornets on the other hand build large nests made from cellulose (chewed up wood pulp) which they attach to tree limbs or under the eaves of buildings. A single colony can support between 1,500 & 15,000 wasps. Unsuspecting bystanders will often disturb nests when they walk by agitating the occupants and causing them to sting repeatedly. Paper Wasps, although not as aggressive as their close relatives the yellow jacket can still exhibit a painful sting. They can be recognized by their hexagonal shaped nests made from cellulose that are attached by a single stalk. The Paper wasp prefers to build a nest that is above ground in a protected area for example, eaves, walls and garages, machinery, fences, outbuildings, and trees. Each nest holds as many as 200 occupants.