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What Is the Difference Between a Wasp and a Hornet?

While I was out on a hike with my friends, we noticed the wasps were unusually busy. The wasps had been around all day but were mostly docile and had not been acting aggressively. I always feel like wasps tend to have it in for me as a pest control operator and I don’t blame them. By the end of the day, I would feel the exhilaration of their sting. After it stung me, my friend called it a hornet. What is the difference between a wasp and a hornet?

Paper wasp

General Use

There are many terms that are technical in nature but also have general use. For example, Kleenex is technically a brand of facial tissue but is commonly used as anything someone uses to blow their nose. The term hornet is similar. It has a technical nature, but it is generally used to refer to:

  • a wasp that is more aggressive by nature
  • a larger than average wasp (actual size may be less relevant than perceived size as my 6 year old may attest)
  • a wasp thought to have a potent sting (doesn’t every sting feel potent?)
All stingers look menacing


Sometimes animals are given silly names such as the pink fairy armadillo. While there is plenty of pink and it is an out-of-this-world-looking animal, it is hardly a fairy. This is similar to the bald-faced hornet. Its face is neither entirely bald nor is it an actual hornet. It is just a wasp that is black and white in color and likes to build gigantic nests in landscaping.

Bald Faced Hornet

True Hornets

Scientifically speaking, the term hornet refers to wasps in the genus Vespa Examples of these are the:

Giant Hornet

No More Hornet

Regardless of whether it is a true hornet or a wasp, we all just want them to leave us alone. The proper steps to make this happen include:

  • Contact a pest professional (why mess with flying puncture pests?)
  • Properly identify the flying menace
  • Use the identification to guide nest removal
  • Reduce food sources
  • Alter habitat to keep them from returning
Bald Faced Hornet Nest

Wherever you are in the wasp avoidance process, the stinging insect experts at Rove Pest Control are happy to help accelerate and simplify the process for you.