Wasps and Hornets are carnivores with constricted waists and little to no hair, appear smooth and shiny with a much more radiant yellow color. They feed on meat scraps, other insects, and spiders. Yellow Jackets, Paper Wasps, and Hornets are all Social wasp species that live in colonies. They make paper nests located in the ground, in a void, or hanging from a tree branch, depending on the species. There are several Solitary wasp species as well, like Cicada Killers, Potter Wasps, and Dirt Daubers to name a few.
There are hundreds of species of wasps, hornets and bees found around the world. Only a few of these are seen as real pests and some of them do not sting. Some species, like the Honey Bee, are actually a valuable part of our ecosystem. Understanding their habits, life-cycle and appearance can help to identify the best form of wasp control for your home or business.
Bees, Wasps and Hornets all share similar Life-Cycles. Each wasp/hornet goes through complete metamorphosis from an egg, larvae, pupa to a full grown wasp/ hornet in the cell of the nest. Each species of wasp & hornet has a slightly different life cycle. The difference lies mainly in the nest-building ritual, and how the new nests are started. The life cycle of a colony begins in early spring with a new queen, and ends in winter with the death of the colony’s queen. Each colony has the same caste system: one egg-laying queen, sterile female workers and males.
Spring – start of a new colony
Fertile queen wasps emerge from winter hibernation to find a suitable place to build a nest. Wasp nests are made up of chewed wood mixed with their own saliva, known as wood pulp. The queen builds a few cells and lays her eggs inside, which she rears to be her first worker wasps. These wasps take over the nest building process, rear the young and forage for food for the expanding colony. The queen becomes a full-time egg layer and produces 200-300 eggs per day. She also releases pheromones to keep the colony united.
Summer – expansion of colony
The colony and the nest grow at a rapid rate – in spring there are approximately 5,000 wasps in the nest, while in the height of summer there can be up to 10,000 wasps! The nest grows from the size of a golf ball to a football as the number of insects in the colony increases (wasps are able to construct their nest to any shape to fit the space available).
Late Summer – climax of colony
Towards the end of summer, the growth of the colony has peaked and the queen produces eggs that develop into new queens and fertile male wasps.
Autumn – decline of colony
As the weather cools, the existing queen reaches the end of her life and the social structure within the colony begins to break down. The remaining wasps have no commitment to the nest and indulge in sugary foods, such as a rotten fruit and in some cases your lunch! The new queens leave the nest and are fertilized by male wasps, before finding a place to hibernate overwinter until the following year.
Winter – end of colony
The entire nest and colony dies.
There is a large difference in the life cycles of social wasps and solitary wasps. Solitary wasps typically build mud-like structures on the side of walls in which they lay a single egg. The eggs are then left to develop on their own, and are not tended to by adults like in the social wasp colonies
The vast majority of wasp species are solitary insects. Having mated, the adult female forages alone and if it builds a nest, does so for the benefit of its own offspring. Some solitary wasps nest in small groups alongside others of their species, but each is involved in caring for its own offspring (except for such actions as stealing other wasps’ prey or laying in other wasp’s nests). There are some species of solitary wasp that build communal nests, each insect having its own cell and providing food for its own offspring, but these wasps do not adopt the division of labor and the complex behavioral patterns adopted by eusocial species. Adult solitary wasps spend most of their time in preparing their nests and foraging for food for their young, mostly insects or spiders. Mud daubers and pollen wasps construct mud cells in sheltered places, Potter wasps similarly build vase-like nests from mud, often with multiple cells, attached to the twigs of trees or against walls. Predatory wasp species normally subdue their prey by stinging it, and then either lay their eggs on it, leaving it in place, or carry it back to their nest where an egg may be laid on the prey item and the nest sealed, or several smaller prey items may be deposited to feed a single developing larva. Apart from providing food for their offspring, no further maternal care is given.
Of the dozens of extant wasp families, only the family Vespidae contains social species, primarily in the subfamilies Vespinae and Polistinae. Social wasp colonies are started from scratch each spring by a queen who was fertilized the previous year and survived the winter by hibernating in a warm place. When she emerges, she builds a small nest and rears a starter brood of worker females. These workers then take over expanding the nest, building multiple six-sided cells into which the queen continually lays eggs. By late summer, a colony can have more than 5,000 individuals, all of whom, including the founding queen, die off at winter. Only newly fertilized queens survive the cold to restart the process in spring.
Common Species in the U.A.E.
Arabian Paper Wasp
Latin Name – Delta Campaniforme
What do they look like?
Arabian Paper Wasps can be identified by the characteristic three black spots on the head.
Large compound darker yellow eyes.
Length: Reaches up to 25mm in size.
Color: Antennae are yellow, rather long.
Wings: Wings are clear with a yellow color.
Latin Name – Vespula spp. and Dolichovespula spp.
What do they look like?
Yellow jackets, genera Dolichovespula and Vespula, are wasps that can be identified by
their alternating black and yellow body segments and small size.
Length: They measure 10 to 16 mm in length.
Color: Most yellow jackets are black and yellow, although some may exhibit white and black coloration.
Thin waist: In contrast to the bee, the yellow jacket’s waist is thinner and defined.
Wings: Their elongated wings are as long as the body and fold laterally when at rest.
Red Potter Wasp
Latin Name – Delta Dimidiatipenne
What do they look like?
Easily recognizable by its large size, reddish brown body and large black compound eyes.
Short antennae that is about the same length as the thorax. Long mandibles, crossed when not in use.
Length: They measure 30-40mm in length.
Color: Reddish brown body with a mostly black abdomen.
Wings: When these wasps are relaxed will keep their wings folded. Wing tips are black.
Latin Name – Vespa Crabro (Linnaeus)
What Do They Look Like?
European Hornets can be identified by their head which looks yellow from front and red from above.
Thorax and legs black/ reddish brown.
Length: The European hornet is a large insect. The adults range in size between 2 and 3.5 cm in length.
Color: They are brown with yellow stripes on the abdomen and a pale face.
Wings: They have two pairs of wings.
Hornet or Wasp?
Here’s the biggest thing to know: All hornets are wasps, but not all wasps are hornets. Hornets are generally a little chubbier and larger than their svelte wasp brethren, and some species forego common yellow and-black striping for white and black markings. Their increased size means they also carry a substantial load of venom, so in some cases these insects are more dangerous than other kinds of wasps. Wasps tend to chow down on caterpillars and harmful flies, too, making them beneficial to humans. Wasps also exhibit a voracious affinity for sugary foods and drinks, and as such they often make themselves unwelcome guests at outdoor gatherings like picnics or events. While hornets may eat fruit or picnic food, they’re much more likely to feed on insects, like crickets and grasshoppers.