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Name: Nina B.
Status: educator
Age: 30s
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: 2001

What is the difference between a wasp and a hornet? I know that they both in the vespa family. However is a wasp a hornet and/or a hornet a wasp? I tried to look up these two creatures but cannot find out what the exact difference is between the two. Along the same lines...can a "yellow jacket"-type wasp be called a hornet?

Wasp and hornet are somewhat generic terms - that is why we have scientific names! What most people call a "hornet" is the bald-faced hornet, which builds large - up to basketball size - paper nests in trees. Yellow-jackets are closely related and may be called either wasps or hornets. In the eastern U.S. there are 2 common yellow jackets, nearly identical in appearance, a native one lives in the ground and a European import more likely in buildings. Bald faced hornets and yellow jackets are all in the subfamily Vespinae. Many other related insects are called wasps, often they are more narrow-waisted than the Vespas and either solitary or have only relatively small social colonies. They include potters and paper wasps that attach small nests to buildings and many other kinds. Many more types are less well known, a good guide like the Peterson Field Guide to Insects will give you an outline.

J. Elliott

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