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Wasp, Hornet, and Stinging Insect Control

Digger bees in a lawn in Sandy Springs

Digger bees in a lawn in Sandy Springs

There are many, many different kinds of wasps -- more than 100,000 species, all told. The ones mentioned on this page are just a few of the ones that we encounter most commonly in the Atlanta Metropolitan area.

Wasps and bees are related, but they're not the same. All wasps are members of the order Hymenoptera, which also includes ants and true bees. One of the things that differentiates wasps from bees is that wasps don't make honey, but bees do. More importantly on a practical level, in Georgia, most stinging insects are wasps, not bees.

Wasp species vary greatly in their habits, appearance, and aggressiveness. Some wasps, like many paper wasps, are relatively passive and won't bother you unless you bother them, even if you're in close proximity. Others, like yellow jackets, will attack if you get too close, but otherwise won't bother you. And then there are the hornets, who will attack en masse if you dare to even look at them funny.

What this means from a practical standpoint is that unless you're really sure what kind of wasps you're dealing with, DIY wasp control probably isn't something you should try. Some wasp species can put a serious hurting on you if you happen to rub them them the wrong way. So be safe. Call us instead.

That being said, let's look at some of the more common stinging insects found in Atlanta and throughout Georgia.

Baldfaced Hornets

Baldfaced hornets nest in a tree in Atlanta

A baldfaced hornets' nest in a tree in Atlanta

Baldfaced hornets are stocky, predominantly black wasps with white or pale yellow markings. They build paper nests that usually are suspended from trees, porch ceilings, power lines, and other objects. They also are, by far, the most aggressive of our Georgia wasps, and are very unpredictable. You might walk past the same hornets' nest every day without them bothering you; but then one day they change their mind, decide that you're a threat, and attack you.

When hornets attack, they do so in great numbers, and their stings are intensely painful. They also can cause severe swelling and anaphylaxis. Even people who aren't particularly sensitive to insect stings may need medical care after being attacked by a large number of hornets. That makes hornet control a pretty poor choice for a DIY project.

It's hard to say with any certainty why hornets are so unpredictable. One possibility has to do with the sentries -- two or three wasps who are assigned to fly around right outside the nest and keep a watch for dangers to the colony. It may be that some sentries are more easily alarmed than other.

European Hornets

Top view of a European hornet

European hornets are common in Atlanta and throughout Georgia

European hornets are larger than baldfaced hornets and have a loud, frightening buzz. They have large heads and beautiful coloration consisting of dark orange with yellow and black markings.

Unlike baldfaced hornets, European hornets usually build their nests in hollow trees or other protected void areas, so you're more likely to see the insects than their nests. You might smell their nests, though, especially when they're built inside a home. Their droppings have quite a strong and unpleasant odor.

Despite their size, loud buzz, and horrible stench, European hornets are less aggressive (or at least more predictable) than baldfaced hornets. If you keep your distance, they usually keep theirs. But when they do attack, they do so with gusto, and their stings are very painful.

Yellow Jackets

Yellow jacket wasp

Yellow jacket wasps are common in Atlanta and throughout Georgia

The term "yellow jacket" is a generic one that's applied correctly to a number of different wasp species, and incorrectly to many more. The yellow jackets we get in Georgia are usually various species in the genus Vespula. The one in the picture on the right happens to be Vespula germanica, which is also referred to as the European Wasp or the the German yellow jacket.

Yellow jackets build nests out of paper, and those nests can get quite large -- as big as several feet across in some cases. They usually build their nests in void areas like hollow trees, wall voids, roof soffits, attics, and other such areas where they think they'll be left alone. Very often, the visible entry holes are quite far from the actual nest.

Compared to our other Georgia wasps, yellow jackets rank roughly on the same level as European hornets in their degree of aggressiveness, which is to say that they usually won't bother you if you keep a respectable distance from their nest. But if you get too close for their liking, they will attack in great numbers, and their stings are very painful.

Paper Wasps

Paper wasps on a nest

There are many species of paper wasps common in the Atlanta area

There are many, many species of wasps referred to as "paper wasps," all of which build nests out of paper. They usually build them in semi-exposed areas such as the undersides of window frames, soffits, and so forth, so the nests are covered on top but otherwise exposed. Some species build their nests flat against the surface, while others build nests with narrow "petioles" that hang from the surfaces they're attached to.

Some paper wasp species are loosely social. Their colonies are quite small in numbers compared to most other social wasps, with some "colonies" consisting of only one adult female and her young. Other paper wasp species are solitary, but commonly build nests close other wasps of their specie (yet without any evidence of cooperation).

Most paper wasps are not especially aggressive, but they will attack if they feel threatened. How much is takes to make them feel threatened varies from specie to specie, however, and some species are quite territorial. Their stings can be very painful.

Cicada Killers

Cicada killer wasp

Cicada killers are large, solitary, soil-dwelling wasps that prey on cicadas.

Cicada killers (sometimes called "lawn wasps") are large insects with similar coloration as yellow jackets. They have an interesting life cycle that is also the reason for their name: A female catches and paralyzes a cicada, drags it into her nest in the ground, and lays an egg on it. Within a day or so, the eggs hatch, and the larvae eat the cicada.

Male cicada killers can be very intimidating because they fly aggressively, make a loud buzz, and sometimes even head butt you if you get too close to their mates' nest. But the males have no stingers, so all they can really do is annoy you a bit. They also are very territorial with regard to other males and can often be observed fighting each other.

Female cicada killers have stingers, but they're fairly passive insects who usually don't sting unless you do something dumb like stick your finger into their nest hole. And really, who can blame them for that?

Other than being annoying (especially when present in large numbers), cicada killers are disliked primarily for the damage they do to lawns. Being very large, the holes they make in a lawn are very visible

Digger Bees

As there name implies, digger bees are true bees (as opposed to wasps) that make nests in the ground. They can do extensive damage to lawns, as you can see in the following video:

Because they can be present in very large numbers, digger bees can be very intimidating. They are not very aggressive, however, although they will sting if they're threatened.

Stinging Insect Gallery

Here are some pictures of wasp, hornet, and other stinging insect work we've done in and around the Atlanta area.


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Interesting Video of a Queen Hornet After Her Nest was Destroyed
by Webmaster
Aug 13, 2018 12:30:53 pm.

Nice Video of a Hornets Nest Removed from a Soffit
by Webmaster
Aug 13, 2018 12:21:20 pm.

Here's Javors Removing a Hornets Nest from a Bamboo Tree
by Webmaster
Aug 13, 2018 12:12:41 pm.

Enjoy this Close Up Video of a Hornets' Nest Removal Job
by Webmaster
Aug 13, 2018 12:01:02 pm.

Picture of a Hornets Nest on a House in Atlanta
by Webmaster
Aug 10, 2018 07:42:22 am.

Javors Sent Video of a Hornets' Nest Removed from a Juniper Tree
by Webmaster
Jul 25, 2018 10:10:10 am.

Here's a Video of Bats in a Gable Vent
by Webmaster
Jul 23, 2018 09:59:00 am.

An Animal Inspection Revealed a Crack in the Foundation
by Webmaster
Jul 23, 2018 09:51:02 am.

Nice Video of a Hornets Nest Removal from an Azalea Bush
by Webmaster
Jul 19, 2018 09:45:41 am.

Here's a Video of a Hornets Nest Removed from a Tree
by Webmaster
Jul 18, 2018 10:08:19 am.

Javors Sent Video of a Hornets Nest Removal Job in Atlanta
by Webmaster
Jul 18, 2018 10:00:28 am.

There Can Be Many Hidden Animal Entry Points on a House
by Webmaster
Jul 18, 2018 09:57:01 am.

Here's Carl Animal Proofing a House
by Webmaster
Jul 17, 2018 09:09:12 am.

Javors Sent Video from a Hornets Nest Removal Job in Dallas, Georgia
by Webmaster
Jul 10, 2018 09:27:40 am.

Segundo Demonstrates How to Walk Past a Yellow Jackets Nest
by Webmaster
Jul 10, 2018 09:21:05 am.

Matt Sent a Picture of a Cicada Killer Wasp With a Cicada
by Webmaster
Jun 28, 2018 09:56:36 am.

Here's a Hornets Nest Removed from a House in Sandy Springs
by Webmaster
Jun 22, 2018 10:06:27 am.

New Google+ Post: What Kind of Cameras and Software Do We Use?
by Webmaster
Jun 19, 2018 12:43:49 pm.

Video of a Hornets Nest Removed from a House in Stone Mountain
by Webmaster
Jun 19, 2018 11:11:05 am.

Stunning Video of a Bald-Faced Hornet Emerging from Pupation
by Webmaster
Jun 19, 2018 11:06:56 am.

Here's a Close-Up of a Yellow Jacket Wasp
by Webmaster
Jun 18, 2018 10:16:27 am.

Javors Sent a Picture of a Hornets Nest on a Window Frame in Atlanta
by Webmaster
Jun 12, 2018 04:37:16 pm.

Here are Tim and Jason at the Georgia Pest Control Conference
by Webmaster
Jun 05, 2018 10:41:30 am.

Here's a Picture of a European Hornets Nest
by Webmaster
May 31, 2018 11:05:34 am.

Here are some Paper Wasps Building a Nest on a House in Atlanta
by Webmaster
May 09, 2018 11:07:14 am.

Here's One Reason Why We Sometimes Run Behind Schedule
by Webmaster
Apr 17, 2018 10:41:14 am.

Now This is One Huge Construction Gap in a House in Atlanta
by Webmaster
Apr 16, 2018 10:49:36 am.

Here's Carl Finding a Well-Hidden Animal Entry Hole in a House
by Webmaster
Apr 16, 2018 10:38:26 am.

New YouTube Video: To Catch the Critter, You Must Become the Critter
by Webmaster
Apr 11, 2018 09:51:07 am.

Brandon Found a Hornets' Nest on a House in Atlanta
by Webmaster
Apr 02, 2018 10:30:36 am.

These Pictures Prove that Carl Obviously Needs More Animal-Removal Work to Do
by Webmaster
Jan 18, 2018 11:22:59 am.

The Folks Up North May Laugh, but This is a Blizzard in These Parts
by Webmaster
Jan 17, 2018 12:02:41 pm.

The Atlanta, Georgia office of Rid-A-Critter provides stinging insect control in all of Metro Atlanta, including the communities of Berkeley Lake, Buckhead, College Park, Conyers, Decatur, Douglasville, Duluth, Fayetteville, Hull, Johns Creek, Lilburn, Lithonia, Loganville, Mableton, Marietta, McDonough, Newnan, Norcross, Peachtree City, Powder Springs, Sandy Springs, Smyrna, Stone Mountain, and Vinings.

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