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Wasp, Hornet, or Mud Dauber?

Sometimes it is difficult to automatically identify a flying insect such as a wasp, hornet, or mud dauber.  Is it aggressive?  Will it sting me?  How do I tell these flying insects apart?  Knowing more about each is the best way to identify them and stay at a safe distance.  Unfortunately wasps do sting humans and animals alike.  Although wasps do not sting humans unless provoked, many people are allergic to the venom of wasps.

Wasps prey upon pest insects and are commonly used in agricultural pest control.  Overall, most wasps do not play a role in pollination; however, there are a few species of wasps that are the only pollinators for their host plants.

Like humans, some wasps are social.  Social wasps live in colonies of up to several thousand and build nests together made of primarily wood pulp and saliva.  Similarly, bees use wax to construct and adhere their hives and live together in colonies.  The construction of hornets’ nests are started by the queen and continued by sterile worker hornets.  Some nests are half a meter across and contain up to ten thousand hornets.

Interestingly hornets eat the leaves and sap of trees in addition to flies, bees, and other insects.  In a hornet colony, the queen is the only female to reproduce.  Males or drones mate with the queen and soon die.

One of the solitary species of wasps is the mud dauber.  Mud daubers vary in color and length but are typically identified by a long, narrow waist.  They individually mated females lay their eggs within the nest in concealed cells.  Although mud daubers can sting, they are not aggressive and are regarded as pests due to their “mud” nests.  Mud daubers build small nests of mud under the eaves of buildings and homes.

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