Hornet vs. Wasp: What is the difference between hornet and wasp?

Hornet vs. Wasp: In This Article We Will Discover The Key Differences Between Hornet and Wasp, Their Similarities, Pros & Cons, And Answer Some Of The Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Hornet vs. Wasp: Key Differences, Pros & Cons, FAQ

Though wasps and hornets belong to the same family yet they differ in a few aspects. The biggest difference between wasp and hornet lies in their size with wasp being the smaller. Hornets can reach up to 2.2 inches in length while wasps range between ⅓ to 1 inch only.

Considering hornet vs. wasp definitions for clarity

What is a wasp?

A wasp is a winged insect with black and bright yellow rings across its body.

What is a hornet?

Hornets are the largest wasps featuring reddish-brown heads and golden abdomens with dark brown stripes over them.

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Looking at the similarities between a wasp and a hornet

  • Both wasp and hornet have a queen in their colonies who is responsible for birthing offspring.
  • Both wasp and hornet are omnivores and scavengers and feed on decaying fruits or insects.
  • Both wasp and hornet do not die after they sting. This is the major differentiation of bee vs. wasp vs. hornet as bees die after stinging. 

How do you kill hornets?

The easiest way to kill hornets is by spraying a strong hornet killer, like Spectracide Wasp and Hornet Killer, on their nest. Such sprays can be easily bought at a local grocery store. To stop the further infestation, also spray some hornet dust on and around the nesting site.

Will a wasp sting me if I stay still?

If you stay still, the wasp won’t sting you. Wasps fly off if one does not move at all as they sense no fear from you. Their stings are an action of their defense mechanism. 

Is a yellowjacket a wasp or a hornet?

Yellowjacket is neither a wasp nor a hornet but a separate species belonging to the same family. Considering hornet vs. wasp vs. yellow jacket, a yellow jacket showcases similar colors like that of a wasp but it is shorter, thicker, and has black antennae unlike wasps with orange-tipped antennae. Their flight is similar to that of a hornet’s as they tuck their legs under their bodies while flying.

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How far will a yellow jacket chase you?

A yellow jacket would chase you for around 50-100 feet or several yards. But outrunning them is almost an impossible task as they fly at nearly 8 miles per hour. Also, instances have been reported where people submerge themselves in water to protect themselves, only to find the yellow jacket waiting outside to start the chase again. 

Do wasp sting you for no reason?

Wasps aren’t known to attack unprovoked. They sting only when they perceive you as a threat to them or their nest. If a wasp stings you, there’s a good chance that you have provoked it somehow either by getting closer to its nest or otherwise. 

How do wasps see humans?

As per a recent study conducted on their cognitive abilities, it has been found that wasps can recognize human faces (Ref.1). Though they have a low-resolution vision, they have a photographic memory that lets them see and remember humans. 

What scent do hornets hate?

Hornets are known to hate the scent of peppermint. A few other scents that are next in line are lemongrass, clove, wormwood, eucalyptus, thyme, citronella, and geranium. 

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What is the biggest hornet in the world? 

Native to a few temperate and tropical parts of Asia, the deadly Asian giant hornet is the biggest in the world with a body length of about 1 ¾ inch.

How to get rid of wasps and hornets?

The best way to get rid of wasps and hornets is to use a wasp and hornet killer or pesticides built specifically for this purpose. Available in the form of sprays or aerosols, they are easy and safe to use even without professional help. This is because one can spray them 15-20 feet away from the nest, thereby, at zero risks of getting stung. Also, to deter them from coming back next season, make sure to spray some insecticide dust.

Listing the pros and cons of wasps and hornets

Pros of wasps

  • They balance our ecosystem by eating other smaller insects.
  • Like bees, they act as pollinators though they are not as robust pollinators as bees are.

Cons of wasps

  • They act as pests in many regions.
  • They can sting humans repeatedly.

Pros of hornet

  • Like wasps, hornets feed on smaller insects and maintain a balance in our ecosystem.
  • They also act as pollinators like bees and wasps but contribute much less in this aspect as their bodies are not as sticky as that of bees to transfer much pollen from flower to flower. 

Cons of hornet

  • They act as pests in many parts of the world.
  • Like wasps, they are capable of multiple stinging in quick succession causing immense pain.

Tabulating the hornet and wasp difference for easier comprehension 

SizeThey are the largest of all wasps and can reach up to 5.5 centimeters.They can measure anywhere between one centimeter to two and a half centimeters.
AbdomenHornets have rounder and fatter bellies. Wasps have a pointed lower abdomen along with a narrow waist.
FlightThe legs of the hornet stay tucked in during a flight. While in a flight, the legs of the wasp dangle beneath.
AggressionThey are comparatively less aggressive if unprovoked. They are more aggressive.
Color markingsThey generally have reddish-brown heads, golden abdomens, dark brown stripes, and a hint of black on their bodies. They generally have black and bright yellow rings on their bodies. 
ScopeThey are a type of wasp. They have many species like hornets and yellowjackets under them.

Comparison Chart

Hornet vs. Wasp: In This Article We Will Discover The Key Differences Between Hornet and Wasp, Their Similarities, Pros & Cons, And Answer Some Of The Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Comparison Video

What’s the Difference Between a Wasp & a Hornet?

Conclusion: Which is worse between a hornet and a wasp?

Hornets are thought to be worse as they can sting you unprovoked. Also, they are extremely aggressive. And those retractable stingers let them bite you multiple times when hostile. Contrary to this, wasps are not as aggressive and attack only if they are provoked. Also, only female wasps have stingers. 


  1. https://news.cornell.edu/stories/2020/01/paper-wasps-rapidly-evolved-ability-identify-faces
Alex Stantor
Alex Stantor

Alex Stantor is a Sorbonne University (Paris, France) graduate in Philosophy and Data Analysis. Currently, he is an Author and Researcher at Difference 101, he writes articles/blog posts on topics such as "thinking differently" and "the importance of difference". Alex is a passionate advocate of diversity in the workplace and in companies, and diversity and inclusion in corporate communications. He currently lives in Brooklyn.

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