If you see a yellow jacket and a hornet sitting on a fruit, you can assume that they are the same insect. After all, they look alike and both belong to the Vespidov family. But upon closer inspection, you will see that the two insects have several significant differences.
First, the yellow jacket is smaller than the hornet. Their body coloration is also slightly different. Also, there is a difference between their diets.
Do yellow jackets and hornets build similar nests? Which of these two insects is more likely to sting a person? Why are yellow jackets known as “meat wasps”? Read on to find out the answers to these questions and to learn more about yellow vests and hornets.
Comparison of Yellow Jacket and Hornet
|Size (length):||1.3 – 2.2 inches||Up to 1 inch|
|Diet:||Insects, fruits||Insects, fruits, carrion|
|Nest location:||Inside the walls, in the trees||Underground|
|Socket type:||Cone shape||Tunnels and chambers|
|Colour:||Brown / yellow, black, red||Black yellow|
|Aggressive behavior:||Bites multiple times||Bites and stings|
|Average flight speed:||14 mph||6-7 mph|
7 main differences between yellow jackets and hornets
The yellow jacket and hornet are similar in that they both have a pair of wings, six slender legs, and a narrow section separating their abdomen and ribcage. But look at their size and you will find that the hornet is much larger than the yellow jacket.
The yellow jacket is about 1 “long, while the hornet’s body can be 1.3 to 2.2” long.
Just look at the list of foods that are included in the diet of both yellow jackets and hornets, and you will see a lot of the same. However, there is one very different item that eats up the yellow jacket.
Flies, caterpillars, fruits and beetles are eaten by both yellow jackets and hornets. Also, both insects drink nectar. What sets the yellow jacket diet apart is that it consumes carrion, or dead animal meat. The yellow jackets are the ones most commonly seen buzzing around dumpsters of discarded food and circling around motorway accidents. This occupation earned them the name “meat wasp”.
3. Location of the socket
Most yellow jackets are known to make their nests underground. Typically, they dig a hole in a patch of dirt or mud and dig a tunnel to create a nest. Some yellow jackets use burrows left by other small animals. Note that there are several types of yellow jackets that build nests above the ground.
Hornets build nests under the branches of trees or bushes. Sometimes they arrange a nest under the eaves of the house. The homeowner may even find a hornet’s nest in the wall.
4. Socket type
The type of nest is one of the most noticeable differences between this pair of flyers. A cone-shaped hornet nest with a paper surface. Hornets make their nests, chewing on wood pulp. Gradually, the wood pulp combined with saliva helps build the nest walls.
Yellow jackets are digging a tunnel and building nests from wood pulp. The nest contains cages or compartments for workers and the uterus. Usually there is only one entrance leading to a socket underground. Some of the nests of the yellow jackets have been found four feet deep!
Unsurprisingly, these nests are hard to find, unless someone is looking for a lot of yellow vests that come and go.
Yellow jackets are easily recognizable by the yellow and black stripe on the belly. They have yellow and black spots on their chest and head.
Hornets have similar yellow and black markings on their abdomen. What sets them apart from yellow jackets is the color red combined with black on the head and chest.
6. Aggressive behavior
Both of these insects have a venomous bite. The hornet can bite a person very quickly several times. Yellow jackets will sting and may bite.
The toxic fluid secreted by yellow jackets and hornets causes irritation and pain in the area where the bite enters the skin.
A bite from any of these insects can be potentially fatal if someone has an allergic reaction to the poisonous liquid.
Biologists have found that yellow jackets are more aggressive than hornets. Of course, they can become aggressive when someone gets close to their nest. Also, yellow jackets have been known to bite people for no reason.
7. Average flight speed.
Yellow jackets and hornets can fly at great speed. But hornets have been observed to fly slightly faster than yellow jackets. Hornets fly at an average speed of 14 miles per hour, while yellow jackets fly at an average speed of 6 to 7 miles per hour.
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