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You don’t have to be an entomologist to know that wasps are stinging insects. However, little do many people know, a massive 75,000 wasp species have been documented around the world, making it one of the largest insect groups. Many of these wasp species are tiny parasitic wasps that prey on other insects and pose no threat to humans whatsoever. Some wasp species that are commonly encountered by humans are solitary ground-nesting wasps that are largely harmless to humans. But many solitary wasp species are mistaken for dangerous wasp species, like yellow jackets, on account of their similar appearance. While yellow jackets and hornets are well known groups of wasps, most Massachusetts residents are unfamiliar with the two wasp pest species known commonly as the European hornet and the northern paper wasp.

The northern paper wasp, P. fuscatus, is most abundant in the upper midwest, but they are often found in the northeast as well. Northern paper wasps build their nests in areas where wood is available, as these wasps extract and chew wood as a nest-building material. This is why these wasps frequently nest on a variety of structures including homes, barns, sheds and near firewood. Unfortunately, these wasps are very aggressive and they are known for attacking humans who may accidentally come into contact with their nests. The queen is the first to attack with her offspring in quick pursuit behind her. At least these wasps are good for removing problem caterpillars from residential properties, but you would not want to tangle with a colony.

The European hornet, V. crabro, has existed in the northeast US since the 1800s, and it is now abundant in every area of the region. European hornet nests are commonly found in hollowed trees, beneath porches, decks and even in basements. These hornets are not often found in urban areas of Massachusetts, but they are often found in suburban areas that are located near forested regions. Residents often see and hear these buzzing hornets bouncing off of their windows during their nighttime flights, but they are only dangerous when colonies perceive threats. However, given how often their nests are found near and within homes, it is not uncommon for residents to fall victim to their painful stings. If a nest is located near an inhabited area, a pest control service should be contacted for its removal.

Have you ever found a wasp nest within your home?