How To Tell A Hornet Vs Wasp

Are you wondering how to tell the difference between a hornet vs wasp? How do you know if you are dealing with a wasp nest or a hornet nest? More importantly, does it even make a difference?

Hornets and wasps are common insects in the United States, but many people don’t know how to tell the two apart from one another. In fact, many people don’t realize that hornets actually are wasps, just a larger version.

If you’re confused, don’t worry. Today, we are going to go over how to tell the difference between a hornet vs wasp and talk about the best methods of control, why these insects are so beneficial, and how you can keep them from becoming a nuisance to your home and garden.

Let’s begin.

A Hornet Vs Wasp – What Is A Hornet?

Pic 1 a hornet on wood
Hornets are larger than wasps and often a brown or burnt orange color. 

As we mentioned above, hornets are actually a type of wasp. That said, hornets do look very different from their other wasp counterparts and there are some telltale signs that make them stand apart from the rest.

There are two “types” of hornets and they are known as the bald-faced hornet and the European hornet. The European hornet is the most common in the United States and the only true species of hornet, according to scientists.

But what is a hornet? A hornet is a flying insect that is the largest species of the wasp family. They look quite similar to yellowjackets, who they are closely related to, and they build areal, paper-like nests in trees, porches, gardens, sheds, fences and other exposed, raised areas.

Hornet Anatomy, Characteristics, And Nest

Pic 2 a closeup of hornet larvae
Hornets catch insects and feed them to their larvae. 

Hornet Size And General Appearance:

The easiest way to tell a hornet vs wasp is by size. While hornets technically are wasps, they are the largest in the wasp family, making them easier to identify. On average, most hornets are just slightly larger than wasps, growing to be around one to 1.5 inches long. However, some species of hornet can reach as large as 2.2 inches. (Here’s looking at you, scary Murder Hornet.)

Hornets also have much larger heads than other wasps and a more rounded abdomen.

Hornet Nest:

Like other wasps, social hornets create their nests from wood particles they chew into a pulp like substance to form what often looks like a grayish paper balloon. These nests are often exposed and clearly visible, being as they are so large.

Each nest has one queen, and while the rest of the hornets will die out during the winter, the queen will go on to hibernate.

Hornet Habitat:

Most hornets are not native to America and have made their way here by human travel. (Again, looking at you, Murder Hornet). In fact, oftentimes yellow jackets are mistaken for hornets, although they are not hornets at all.

Hornets are generally found throughout the Northern Hemisphere, and though they were originally from humid, tropical environments, hornets have adapted to thrive throughout the US.

Hornet Reproduction:

A fertilized queen begins the hornet nest herself in early spring by choosing a safe, sheltered place to make her nest. She begins by building up to 50 cells and lays eggs in each cell. Hornets take between five and eight days to hatch, and then two more weeks to develop into adult hornets.

Over time the nest grows larger as more and more hornets reach adulthood, and before summer’s end, many nests have reached nearly 700 hornet workers. Then, once summer is over, the nest dies out and the queen goes into hibernation.

Signs Of Hornet Activity: 

A hornet infestation is nothing to mess with. A hornet’s sting is very painful and can even be fatal to those who are sensitive or allergic. Hornets can also sting multiple times, and can be aggressive if they feel threatened.

The most common signs of a hornet infestation are actually seeing a number of hornets. If you notice a few adult hornets hanging around and scraping at wood from your home or fence, you may be able to catch the infestation early as this is a sign they are in the process of building their nest.

A Hornet Vs Wasp – What Is A Wasp?

Pic 3 a black and yellow wasp
There are many different species of  wasp, but you can distinguish them from hornets by their unique abdomen.  

Remember, all hornets are wasps. But some wasps are not hornets. When it comes to distinguishing between a hornet vs wasp, try and remember that the paper wasp, yellow jacket, and solitary wasp are not hornets. This may help you tell the difference in the future.

These wasps are generally smaller than hornets and have a slimmer abdomen. While the paper wasp and yellow jacket are social wasps, the solitary wasp lives an isolated life outside of a colony.

All wasps (including hornets) are beneficial insects that help perform a natural form of pest control. They eat other pests and insects that can harm our gardens and landscaping. However, they can become problematic when they nest too close to our homes or property.

Wasp Anatomy, Characteristics, And Nest

Pic 4 a wasp on a nest
Wasps make large nests in trees or sometimes underground. 

Wasp Size And General Appearance:

Wasps are generally less than one inch long and can be many different colors from black and yellow, to all black, to all yellow, and more. They also have long thin wings and small heads.

Wasp Nest:

Wasps build aerial nests in trees, o  fence posts, in garages, or even in the ground. Their areal nests look similar to a hornet nest, while their ground nests are usually underground and unexposed. Unlike hornets, who only have between 100 to 700 worker hornets by the time their colony is complete, wasps can grow their colonies as large as 5,000.

Wasp Habitat:

Wasps in the United States can live nearly anywhere, though they prefer meadows and forested areas like orchards or woodlands. Unlike hornets, wasps are native to North America.

Wasp Reproduction:

When it comes to hornets vs wasp reproduce, there is very little variation. Wasps mate once a year and hibernate to pass the winter. Once winter is over, a female fertilized wasp (aka the queen) begins the colony.

Her eggs hatch between eight to ten days after being laid, and larvae take up to two weeks to mature.

Solitary wasps, on the other hand, don’t live in a colony and lay their eggs near insects they have enabled with venom and may abandon them. That way when the larvae grow, they have something to eat. However, some solitary wasps watch over their nest.

Signs Of Wasp Activity: 

Just as with hornets, when it comes to signs of wasp activity, look for adult wasps, signs of chewed or scraped wood near fences or on your home, and nests. Remember, some wasp nests may be under ground, so you’ll have to be vigilant when it comes to finding this kind of nest.

Distinguishing Between A Hornet Vs Wasp

Pic 5 a close up of a hornet nest in a garage Pic 6 a wasps nest on someones porch
Hornets and wasps build similar nests and can cause similar types of issues for homeowners..

A hornet vs wasp problem – which is worse? Well, that depends on perspective, I suppose. On the one hand, individual hornets are larger than wasps and their sting can be more painful. However, their colonies are smaller than wasp colonies, who are capable of growing them into the thousands.

So, which type of insect are you dealing with? Let’s do a quick overview of how to distinguish between a hornet vs wasp:

  • Hornets are larger than wasps
  • Hornets have a larger abdomen
  • Wasps have a thin abdomen
  • Hornets have a large head and mandible

Luckily, since wasps and hornets are generally one in the same (unless the wasp is not a hornet) then the same methods of removal work for them.

Confused yet? Don’t be.

The below video describes in better detail why hornets are wasps, but not all wasps are hornets. 

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Hornet Vs Wasp Removal – Best Insecticides

Pic 7 a black and yellow hornet
Removing a hornet nest should be done carefully.

If a hornet or wasp problem gets out of control, you may need to use insecticides to help remedy the infestation. Luckily, and as we mentioned above, many of the same products work for controlling both hornets and wasps.

We have listed some of the most popular hornet and wasp sprays below.

Ortho Home Defense Hornet And Wasp Killer

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One of the most effective ways to get rid of these insects, regardless of if you have a hornet vs wasp, is to use outdoor wasp and hornet killers that shoot far and have precise aim. This is also the best way to stay safe during removal.

This spray by Ortho reaches up to 20 feet and is made to work on both hornet and wasp nests and colonies. It will also continue to kill wasps and hornets who return to the nest later.

Please note that this product can be harmful to children and pets so read the directions carefully before use and use it with care.

Raid Wasp And Hornet Spray

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Another effective and popular method for hornet or wasp removal is by Raid. This product is specifically designed to target and kill wasps and hornets and you can order it in several different package sizes. It sprays up to 20 feet and works against nests and returning insects.

However, keep in mind that this product is an insecticides that contains harsh poisons that can be harmful to humans and pets, so use this with caution.

Spectracide Wasp and Hornet Killer

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This aerosol insecticide is specifically designed to target and kill wasps and hornets in their nests. It also works against scorpions, ants, and yellow jackets. The aerosol helps you stay safe by reaching up to 20 feet and is for outdoor use only.

It is meant to target these insects in and around their nest and will continue killing wasps and hornets who return to the nest for days after. This spray uses toxic chemicals to kill wasps and hornets on contact so please use with caution around people and pets.

Hot Shot Wasp and Hornet Killer

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Another aerosol spray that helps control a hornet or wasp problem is made by Hot Shot. This aerosol shoots up to 27 feet, allowing you to reach and target wasps and hornets in their nests from a safe distance.

The order comes with a pack of two aerosol cans and the spray is targeted, killing on contact. It also works to kill scorpions and tent caterpillars. Like most of the insecticides on this list, this product is for outdoor use only and should be used carefully around people and animals.

Hornet vs Wasp Removal – Best Natural Products

Pic 8 a close up of a wasp
Wasps and hornets are beneficial insects, so removing them from your yard entirely isn’t always ideal.

No matter if you are dealing with a hornet or wasp, the truth is that both insects are beneficial and serve as powerful, natural pest control agents for your yards and garden. Of course, that doesn’t mean you want thousands of them buzzing about your backyard.

For this reason, we recommend using natural repellents to control where a hornet vs wasp colony nests.

Let’s take a look at some of our favorite natural deterrents for handling both hornet or wasp issues in the yard.

EcoSmart Wasp and Hornet Killer

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While this hornet and wasp spray will kill insects on contact, it is made with natural, plant-based ingredients that are safe to use around people and pets. It is also environmentally friendly as well.

However, it does not spray as far as some of the above insecticides, only reaching up to 18 feet, but it is an effective product you can use to help repel and control these stinging insects.

FMI Brands Inc Hanging Wasp Deterrent

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For a completely safe and natural wasp and hornet deterrent, we recommend using products like this hanging nest.

The faux wasp nest works by confusing wasps and hornets and leading them to believe there are already wasps or hornets nesting on your porch, in your garage, or wherever else you want to keep them from nesting. Because wasps and hornets are territorial, they will choose to go elsewhere to build their nest if they think another colony beat them to it.


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Another fake wasp vs hornet repellent nest we recommend is this hanging “Aircrow” nest. It is made to look as realistic as possible to help repel and deter territorial wasps and hornets from nesting near your property.

You can hang this nest on your porch, in your garage, near your garden, or even in nearby trees. It is safe to use around children and pets as it doesn’t require the use of any sprays, poisons, or insecticides.

Peppermint Oil

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Peppermint oil is one of those all around natural products chalk-full of goodness. It smells great and can be used for a number of home remedies and medicinal purposes, and it can also be used to repel hornet and wasp issues.

To use this method effectively, we recommend soaking cotton balls in the oil and placing them anywhere you don’t want wasp or hornets nesting. You can also mix 15 drops of peppermint oil in water and spray along the perimeter of your home, or even spray it directly on a wasp or hornet nest.

Peppermint oil also naturally repels mosquitoes, moles, gophers, ants, and other pests.

Colton’s Natural Organic Pest And insect Repellent

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Another organic and all natural product that uses peppermint oil to deter pests is Coloton’s Natural pest control spray. It uses peppermint oil and geranium to deter and kill a number of pests like roaches, spiders, ants, and more. And it doesn’t matter if you are dealing with a hornet vs wasp issue – this product will also help to deter both.

That said, if you have a very serious infestation or a large nest of hornet vs wasp insects, use this spray with caution. This is more of a preventative remedy than a control and removal method.

Best Home Remedies To Deal With A Hornet Vs. Wasp

Pic 9 peppermint oil
Both wasps and hornets don’t like peppermint oil. 

From our list above of natural products you can use to remove both hornet and wasp nests, you may not be surprised to learn that you can make your own hornet vs wasp removal products yourself.

There are plenty of natural ingredients you probably already have lying around your home that would make wonderful ingredients for removing either a hornet or wasp problem.

Let’s take a look at some of our favorite hornet vs wasp removal recipes below.

  • Make Your Own Fake Nest

You can use a brown paper bag and create your own wasp or hornet scarecrow nest to deceive them. Simply inflate the bag and secure it with a rubber band or string. Then hang it upside down wherever you want to keep your hornet vs wasp problem at bay.

However, remember this is a paper bag, and if it gets wet you’ll need to remake the fake nest. Luckily, this is an inexpensive and easy way to help deter these stinging insects.

  • Use Peppermint Oil

As we mentioned above, you can make your own peppermint oil deterrent to help repel and control any hornet vs wasp issues you’re having. Fill a spray bottle with water and drop 15 drops of peppermint oil into the bottle.

Shake it so it is mixed and then spray the concoction around the perimeter of your home and anywhere you don’t want wasp or hornets nesting. You can also spray the wasp or hornet nest directly so they will jump ship, but do this carefully and only at sunrise or sunset, when the insects are less active.

You will need to repeat this process often, but it is a safe and lovely smelling alternative to insecticides.

You can also soak cotton balls in peppermint oil and leave them around your porch or in your garage. You will need to replace these every few days to ensure the method works.

  • Essential Oil Hornet Vs Wasp Nest Spray

Along with peppermint oil, hornets and wasps are also repelled by clove oil, lemongrass oil, and geranium oil. You can mix one teaspoon of each of the above listed oils into six cups of water, put it in a spray bottle, and spray the nest. It doesn’t matter if you are dealing with a hornet vs wasp nest, this should work for both.

  • Make A Lemon Extract Spray

When dealing with a hornet vs wasp nest, we don’t always recommend killing them. However, sometimes killing some is necessary during a massive infestation. If you don’t want to use insecticides, you can make your own lethal lemon extract spray.

Simply add three teaspoons of lemon extract to one cup of water and spray the mixture directly on the nest. The spray will kill both a hornet vs wasp nest on contact, but you can also dilute the mixture so it isn’t lethal and works as a repellent instead by cutting the lemon extract to only one teaspoon.

  • Soap And Water Hornet Vs Wasp Spray

Last, you can use a ½ cup of dish soap and mix it with one cup of water to make a soapy water spray that will deter hornets and wasps. This method is helpful for those who fear being stung, as it not only eliminates your hornet vs wasp problem but also weighs the insects down so they cannot fly after you and sting you.

That said, you should always use any of the above methods with caution. If you have an allergy to bees, hornets or wasps, then we would highly recommend you contact a professional to help you safely remove any nest, regardless of if it is a hornet vs wasp nest.

We hope this article was helpful in showing you how to tell the difference between a hornet vs wasp and the best methods of removal and control. Stay safe and don’t get stung!

Hornet Vs Wasp Facts You Should Know

Pic 10 an up close picture of a hornet head
All hornets are wasps but not all wasps are hornets.

  • A Giant Asian Hornet Can Travel Up To 25 Miles Per Hour

Yes, with all the news exploding that these “Murder Hornets” have made their way to the US, it’s important that you know they are also lightening fast.

  • Hornets Are Wasps But Not All Wasps Are Hornets

In fact,

  • Hornet Vs Wasp – Who Lives Longer?

Both wasps and hornets live about 12 to 22 days. The queen, however, can live up to one year.

  • Honet Vs Wasp Sting – Which Is Worse?

Because the hornet is the largest of the wasps, his sting is the most painful and the most dangerous. That said, only female hornets and wasps can sting and males are typically docile.

  • Are Hornets And Wasps Beneficial?

Regardless of if you’re dealing with a hornet vs wasp problem, you’re still dealing with stinging insects. That said, you may be tempted to run out and kill them all at once. However, don’t be so quick to do that.

Hornets and wasps are beneficial insects that eat other bugs that can be problematic. Some consider wasps and hornets a natural form of pest control and even purposefully introduce them to gardens and farms.

What do you think about the definition of a hornet vs wasp? Would you let these beneficial pest controllers stick around in your garden? Let us know what you think in the comment section below.

Hornet Vs Wasp