Wasps are a common warm-weather sight in much of the Southern United States. A number of wasp species frequent Louisiana. These creatures are commonly regarded as pests, but are rarely dangerous. All species can sting painfully, though. Learning about some of the most common wasps in Louisiana can help prevent unpleasant surprises.
Common Thread-Waisted Wasp
This wasp is named for its very thin waist. The adult form feeds on flower nectar, much like a bee. Young thread-waisted wasps are parasitic. The adult female stings caterpillars to disable them, then brings them to an underground burrow to feed her larvae. Thread-waisted wasps nest primarily in the ground in areas with little to no vegetation.
This very large, solitary wasp looks more dangerous than it really is. Cicada killers are brightly colored, and range from a little over one inch to nearly two inches in length. They nest underground in lawns, but rarely sting. Their primary prey as an adult is the cicada, an insect responsible for significant damage to trees in some areas. Adults supplement this diet with flower nectar.
Yellow jackets are a type of communal wasp about half an inch long. They have bright yellow-and-black markings, and are found along the edge of forests. They nest low in trees, and may also build nests in old buildings, abandoned cars and other enclosed spaces. Yellow jackets are very aggressive and may sting repeatedly, making it important for humans to avoid them.
The bald-faced hornet is not a true hornet, but a relative of the yellow jacket. This type of wasp has a sturdy body and black-and-cream markings. Workers are approximately half an inch long, while the queen is closer to three-quarters of an inch in length. These aggressive hornets sting repeatedly if disturbed, and build gray paper nests under overhangs and in trees.
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