Difference Between Wasp and Hornet

Main Difference – Wasp vs Hornet

Wasps and hornets belong to order Hymenoptera of Phylum Insecta, which also includes bees and ants. This order includes nearly 100,000 known species. Key features of order Hymenoptera include the presence of two pairs of transparent flying wings, well-developed compound eyes, chewing and sucking mouthparts, and mobile head. They often possess stingers, and many of these species are social. All species show complete metamorphosis. Hornets are also a type of wasp that can be distinguished by white markings on the face, thorax and abdomen and their larger sizes. This article elaborates the difference between wasp and hornet in detail. The main difference between wasp and hornet is that hornets are typically larger than wasps.

Wasp – Facts, Characteristics, Behavior 

Wasps can be easily identified by their narrow waist and hairless body. They have various colors ranging from black to metallic green and blues. The body size can vary from microscopic to several centimeters long. Wasps can be either social or solitary. Social wasps live in colonies, which are maintained by female wasps. Many wasps feed mainly on nectar while others feed on insects and food waste. Insect feeding wasps can be either predatory or parasitic. Wasps are known as beneficial insects despite their aggressive behavior; they feed on other insects that damage agricultural crop plants. Various species of wasps build different types of nests. Some build paper-like nests using wood while some use holes in trees or abandoned holes to make nests. Wasps are usually quite aggressive and can sting several times, unlike bees. They become aggressive especially when they are disturbed. Some examples for wasps include American wasp, ants wasp, hornet, yellow jacket, etc.

Difference Between Wasp and Hornet

Yellow Jacket Wasp

Hornet – Facts, Characteristics, Behavior 

Hornets are also called big wasps due to their larger body sizes. There are only 20 species of true hornets living today. An adult hornet can grow up to about 3 cm in length. In addition, their body colors are slightly different from ordinary wasps such as yellow jackets. Hornets are usually black in color with white marking on the face, thorax, and tip of the abdomen. Hornets build large grey color nests with paper-like materials; these nests are usually found in trees or shrubs. Hornets are very aggressive than other wasps and make much louder buzz when they fly. Hornets are social insects and make colonies, which are headed by  larger queens. Colonies usually have an annual life cycle and the success of the colony depends on the survival ability of hornet queen during cold seasons. Their nesting sites are usually difficult to access. The nests should be treated only at night, during which most of the hornets are inside the nest and are less active. Hornets are beneficial insects that help to control agricultural pests. The adult hornets feed on both insects and plant nectar.

Main Difference - Wasp vs Hornet

European hornet

Difference Between Wasp and Hornet

Body size

Most wasps are smaller than hornets with body sizes ranging from microscopic to 1 inch.

Hornets have larger bodies usually within the range of 1-1.5 inches.


Wasps build either aerial or ground nests.

Hornets build aerial nests, which are large, globular and made up of paper-like material.

Body color

Wasps have a wide variety of coloration.

Hornets are usually black with white, brownish or reddish stripes.


Most wasp species feed on nectar and other feed on insects. Scavenging is common.

Hornets mainly feed on insects and rarely scavenge.


Hornets are very aggressive than other wasps.

Wasps sting repeatedly, whereas hornets can bite while stinging.

Difference Between Wasp and Hornet - infographic

Image Courtesy:

“European hornet ” By PiccoloNamek – English Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Commons Wikimedia

Yellow jacket wasp” By Richard Bartz, Munich aka Makro Freak – Own work (CC BY-SA 2.5) via Commons Wikimedia

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