Removing pests’ nests and colonies is essential to eliminating a pest infestation in your home.
Pros swear by this method. And when it comes to hornet nests and wasps nests, things are no different.
Both these stinging and flying insects build their nests and colonies in human homes, indoors and outdoors.
Knowing where hornets and wasps nest and their size, shape, and color differences will help you identify potential danger.
In this guide on hornet nest vs wasp nest, you’ll learn all these things that can save you not only from a potential infestation on your property but also from painful stings and health risks.
Keep reading to know them all.
Hornets Vs. Wasps – The Differences
Before we get into the differences in their nests, let’s find out how wasps and hornets are different from each other.
The differences lie in their shape, color, and, of course, in their nests’ shapes and sizes.
The point to note here is that both wasps and hornets belong to the same species family, Vespidae.
That makes all hornets wasps. But all wasps are not hornets. It’s because there’s a difference in their nesting habits and their social structure.
Keeping that in mind, let’s dive into the differences between hornets and wasps.
Size – 1 inch or smaller
Built – Slender
Color – Reddish brown, dark brown, black with yellow stripes
Diet – Other insects, nectar, ripe fruits, pollen, and sweet edibles.
Size – 1.5 – 2 inches
Built – Thicker than wasps
Color – A mixture of red, black, and gold
Diet – In addition to what wasps eat, hornets eat tree sap, spiders, and caterpillars.
Hornet And Wasp Stings
Despite being pollinators and beneficial insects, wasps and hornets can sting you.
Paper wasps aren’t that aggressive. But the wasps with yellow and black stripes, which are yellowjackets, are aggressive and become agitated when anyone goes near their nests.
On the hand, hornets are more aggressive than wasps and yellowjackets.
Both hornets and wasps sting. And unlike bees, hornets’ and wasps’ stings don’t leave their bodies. They remain intact in their abdomen.
That makes them capable of stinging a human or animal multiple times in different places.
Another point to note here is that hornets are invasive species in the US. It means that they’ve come over here from abroad.
Common Wasps And Hornets In The US
In the US, you’ll come across three types of hornets. These are bald-faced hornets, European hornets, and sand hornets (also known as the cicada killer).
Sand hornets build ground nests. That’s why they can be challenging to spot.
There are three common wasps in the US – paper wasps, yellowjackets, and mud daubers.
Mud daubers are solitary wasps that build their nests out of the mud. The small mud piles on doors and windows, with a hole in them, is a nest of mud daubers.
Mud daubers are harmless. And they don’t sting unless you try to handle them.
The other differences between wasps and hornets lie in their nest.
Identifying their nests is crucial in determining what you’re dealing with, hornets or wasps.
Let’s get into the differences between hornet nests and wasps nests.
Hornet Nest Vs. Wasp Nest – Difference #1: Shape
Differences in the shape of hornet and wasp nests are enough to tell you whether it’s a hornet or a wasps nest.
Hornet nests are circular, with only one single opening at the bottom. That opening is the nest entrance point.
The paper wasp nests are like an inverted umbrella with a heptagonal shape and have multiple tubular combs.
These holes are points of entry. Hornets and wasps will get inside the nest through these holes to lay eggs and rear their larvae.
Hornet Nest Vs. Wasp Nest – Difference #2: Size
Hornet nests are big. A fully developed hornet nest can grow bigger than the size of a basketball or soccer ball.
In contrast, the wasps’ nests are small. A well-built wasp nest can grow up to 6-8 inches wide.
The combs are visible in the wasp nests. In a hornet nest, these combs are underneath the pulp layer surrounding the nest.
Hornet Nest Vs. Wasp Nest – Difference #3: Nesting Locations
Hornets are pretty particular about their nesting locations. They choose sites that are high above the ground.
So, hornets will nest on trees. In a home, hornets will build their nests underneath roof eaves, sheds, and overhangs.
Their main criteria for choosing a nesting site are room for both latitudinal and longitudinal growth.
In contrast, wasps are not that specific with their nesting sites. It’s because their nests aren’t as big as hornet nests.
So, they’ll choose a nesting site that is modestly above the ground.
So, they can even build their nests underneath your window sills, garage roof, barns, shrubs, inside attic and basement, and even inside your car.
The worst part is that both wasps and yellowjacket nests can build their nests inside wall voids or wall cavities and crawl spaces which can become very hard to remove.
Yellowjackets can also choose rodent burrows and ground voids to build their nests in the ground.
The newest hornet species that is now in the US since 2019 is the Asian giant hornet. Like the yellowjackets, the Asian giant hornet can also build underground nests.
That’s why you may notice wasps coming in and out of cracks on the walls in places like bathrooms and garages.
Hornet Nest Vs. Wasp Nest – Difference #4: Colony Size
As hornet nests are bigger than wasps’ nests, there’s no doubt that the hornet nests have more inhabitants than the wasps’ nests.
The colony inside a fully grown giant hornet nest can have 800+ worker hornets.
Not to mention, every hornet nest will house a queen hornet that lays all the eggs inside the nest.
In contrast, a well-developed wasps nests will not house more than 30 worker wasps and the queen.
The worker wasps and worker hornets build the nests and tend to larvae and the queens.
Also, the worker wasps and hornets are the ones that defend the nests from any potential or perceived threat to the nests.
Hornet Nest Vs. Wasp Nest – The Similarities
There are only two similarities between hornet nests and wasps nests.
Both hornets and wasps use the same material to build their nests. And both hornets and wasps hook their nests onto a solid structure.
Hornets and wasps build their nests by mixing the chewed wood pulp with their saliva.
However, the mud dauber wasps don’t. They’ll mix the mud with their saliva to build their nests.
Another similarity is that both hornets and wasps don’t use the same nests in the next season.
They always build a new nest. So, knocking down the abandoned nests in the winter months is OK.
However, there’s a catch.
The presence of pheromones in their old nesting sites makes them return to the old location to build their nests.
When Do Wasps And Hornets Build Their Nests
Both hornets and wasps build their nests starting from the spring season.
The females, or the fertilized queens of both hornets and wasps, hibernate in winter.
When they come out of hibernation with the arrival of spring, they start to build their nests.
Most male wasps and hornets start to die starting in late summer or fall. And before dying, their flight patterns become erratic, and they behave drunkenly.
The presence of wasp nests inside homes can cause the appearance of lethargic or dying wasps inside the house.
If you notice these wasps, there was an active wasp nest inside your home.
What To Do If You Find An Active Wasp Or Hornet Nest In Your Home And Property?
Many articles on the web advise people on how to get rid of wasp and hornet nests on their own.
We don’t advise our readers to use DIY ways to remove wasps, bees, and hornet nests.
Both wasps (predominantly yellowjackets) and hornets will fiercely attack you if you try to tamper with their nests.
They’ll fly to you in swarms and sting you multiple times.
As per the University of Kentucky, 225,000 people visit emergency rooms every year because of hornet and wasp stings.
That’s why you should never try to knock down an active wasps nest or hornet nest. Or even try going near the nests.
Also, the presence of wasps and hornets’ nests can cause stings despite you not going near their nests.
Certain things attract wasps and hornets. Avoid those attractors that draw wasps and hornets on your body.
So, if there’s a wasp or hornet nest on your property, leave it to the professionals to remove them.
Do not try DIY ways to eliminate wasps nests or hornet nests.
You’ll not only expose yourself to their painful venomous stings but also your pets, kids, and family.
Stinging insects like wasps, hornets, and bees have a habit of building their nests in your homes and property.
Bee nests are in the form of hives, but hornets and wasps use pulp mixed with their saliva to build their nests.
The differences between hornet nests and wasps nests are self-evident and easy to spot.
This guide revealed the differences between wasps nests and hornet nests based on their shape, size, color, nesting location, and the numbers in the nests.
Both hornet nests and wasps nests are sources of wasp and hornet infestation in your home and property.
Removing the nests to eliminate the infestation is essential. But do not try to do it on your own.
Please do not use any insecticide sprays, aerosol sprays, or insecticide dust on the nests to destroy them.
Hire professional pest control services to safely remove the nests and follow the instructions of the pest controller during the process.
Nang Chen is an Entomologist and Arachnologist who is associated with Vienna’s museum of natural history. He’s also a consultant with real estate groups, insecticide conglomerates and law enforcement groups as a forensic entomologist. Nang Chen holds an M.S. from South China University and he’s a regular contributor to our site.