How do you tell the difference between a hornet and a yellow jacket?

Answered by James Kissner

When it comes to telling the difference between hornets and yellow jackets, there are a few key factors to consider. One of the most noticeable differences is their size. Hornets tend to be larger than yellow jackets, making them easier to spot. In fact, the only true hornet species found in the United States is the European bald-faced hornet.

The European bald-faced hornet can grow up to 2 inches long, which is quite impressive compared to the average size of yellow jackets. This size difference is often one of the easiest ways to distinguish between the two.

In terms of appearance, the European bald-faced hornet has a rounder shape compared to yellow jackets. They have a larger abdomen and a more robust body structure. On the other hand, yellow jackets have a slimmer and more elongated appearance.

Another way to tell the difference is by observing their color patterns. European bald-faced hornets have a black body with white or yellow markings on their face, abdomen, and thorax. These markings are quite distinctive and can help identify them. Yellow jackets, on the other hand, have a yellow and black color pattern on their body, with black stripes running across their abdomen.

It’s important to note that while the European bald-faced hornet is the only true hornet species in the US, there are other hornet-like insects that are commonly referred to as hornets, such as the Asian giant hornet. However, these hornet species are not as commonly encountered as yellow jackets.

In terms of behavior, hornets and yellow jackets also have some differences. Hornets are generally less aggressive compared to yellow jackets. They are known to be more docile and less likely to sting unless their nest is threatened. On the other hand, yellow jackets can be more aggressive and are known for their painful stings. They are more likely to sting if they feel threatened or if their nest is disturbed.

To summarize, to tell the difference between a hornet and a yellow jacket, look at their size and shape. Hornets, particularly the European bald-faced hornet, are larger and have a rounder appearance compared to yellow jackets. Additionally, observe their color patterns, with hornets having black bodies with white or yellow markings, while yellow jackets have yellow and black stripes. Finally, consider their behavior, as hornets are generally less aggressive than yellow jackets.