Yellowjackets are a subspecies of the wasp family, and while they do share many characteristics with paper wasps, you can tell the two apart if you look at the details. It’s important to be able to tell the difference between yellowjackets and paper wasps, because yellowjackets are much more aggressive, especially when they are defending their nest.


The two species are very much alike in coloration, but what sets them apart is the shape of their bodies. Paper wasps have a slender body with noticeable segmentation and a thin waist. Yellowjackets on the other hand have a shorter, thickened body. You can also tell them apart by their antennae. Paper wasps have orange-tipped antennae, while the yellowjackets’ are completely black.


The two species differ in the way that they fly. Paper wasps will dangle their legs away from their body when they are in flight, while yellowjackets will keep their legs close to their body, tucking them underneath.


If you happen to come across a wasp nest, first make sure that you keep your distance. Second, if the nest resembles a honeycomb or an upside down umbrella, then you are dealing with paper wasps. Their nests will usually be near or on buildings such as in eaves or in lawn furniture. Yellowjacket nests are usually underground, with a single opening. There are also some yellowjacket subspecies that will build their nests inside wall voids.


In terms of behavior, you will notice paper wasps buzzing about, feeding on rotting fruit, and gathering nectar from flowers. They will also be scraping wood wherever they can find it in order to make the papery pulp out of which they build their nests. Yellowjackets on the other hand are drawn to protein, such as grilled meat and other foods that you may have out on your picnic cloth or outdoor table. They are also quite fond of sugary drinks.

Controlling the two species

Paper wasps may be a nuisance every now and then, but they are not as aggressive as yellowjackets. However, both species will start attacking you if you get too close to their nests, so it’s best to get rid of them as soon as possible. Contact us today if you have a paper wasp or yellowjacket infestation on your property.