Some wasps can sometimes be difficult to identify as they can resemble bees. Black wasps are normally easier to identify. There are various types of black wasps such as all-black or partially black wasps in the US.
Types of Black Wasps
The following species of black wasps are common in the US. Yearly observations of these wasps are common.
1. Great Black Digger Wasp
The Great Black Digger Wasp (Sphex pensylvanicus) is one of the largest black wasps in the country. Males and females of the species constantly grow longer than 1 inch.
Males are known for being smaller than females. They typically grow to a size between 0.7 and 1.1 inches.
Females grow a bit larger in a range between 1.1 and 1.3 inches.
Both males and females can be recognized by their all-black bodies. They have dark smoky wings and are generally feared due to their painful sting.
These wasps are known for stinging their prey (ie. insects of the microcentrum genus) 3 times to effectively paralyze them.
Great Black Digger Wasps live in the ground. They sometimes carry their prey in their underground nests.
2. Nearctic Blue Mud-dauber Wasp
The Nearctic Blue Mud-dauber Wasp (Chalybion californicum) is known for its metallic blue and sometimes black body coloring.
The species is mostly black in certain parts of the country. It’s identified by a long body that grows up to 23mm and a narrow petiole.
This wasp is common and feared by humans due to its painful sting. Popular information about the species includes its ability to kill the famous Black Widow spider.
Nearctic Blue Mud-dauber Wasps live in the ground. They are known to exclusively feed on plant nectar, but only as adults.
Young larvae and wasps of the species are fed spiders and other insects for their high protein content.
3. Gold-marked Thread-waisted Wasp
Identification of the Gold-marked Thread-waisted Wasp (Eremnophila aureonotata) is based on its coloring. This is a black wasp with golden spots on the body.
It has black wings and a slender body. Member of these species can be found on wildflowers next to forests where they prefer the nectar of flowers with cluster blossoms.
Adults only eat nectar while larvae are fed the larva of Noctuidae moths.
4. Organ-pipe Mud-dauber Wasp
As its name suggests, this wasp (Trypoxylon politum) makes nests out of the mud. These nests can sometimes be by long tubular constructions where females and eggs are sheltered.
These wasps are mainly black and they can be seen around gardens across the country. They are mainly attracted by spiders as they are an almost exclusive part of the diet.
While the Organ-pipe Mud-dauber Wasp can grow to a size of 1.9 inches it’s not considered a major threat to humans as it has a docile nature.
It can even be seen as a beneficial species to have around the house given this wasp helps control spider populations.
5. Mexican Grass-carrying Wasp
With an all-black body, the Mexican Grass-carrying Wasp (Isodontia mexicana) is easy to spot in its natural habitat, fields of tall green grass.
This black wasp with black wings is seen using cavities in branches as its ideal nest. It provisions this nest with fibers and pieces of dry grass.
The wasp is then seen carrying grasshoppers to serve as food for its larvae.
The species is believed to originate from Mexico and the US.
Over time, it has made its way to Europe where it thrives more due to a lack of any known predators.
6. Blue-eyed Ensign Wasp
The Blue-eyed Ensign Wasp (Evania appendigaster) is a species of black wasps with blue metallic eyes. Its body is thin and a black stalk holds its abdomen and thorax together.
Scientists aren’t sure where this wasp came from. Some assumptions are tied to a possible Asian origin.
Blue-eyed Ensign Wasps are now seen through North America as they spread their habitat from tropical climates to temperate climates.
The wasp is known for feeding small grasshoppers to its larvae. Its larvae hatch when it reaches 8mm.
7. American Pelecinid Wasp
The American Pelicinid Wasp (Pelecinus polyturator) is known for its all-black body that is long and thin. This wasp is commonly seen in gardens and fields where grubs live.
While the wasp doesn’t have stingers, it digs deep in the ground to find grubs on which it lays eggs on.
The eggs then hatch and the young wasp eventually kills the grub.
This species is very agile. Its thin long abdomen helps it move and fly with ease.
8. Steel-blue Cricket-hunter Wasp
With a metallic blue and black body, the Steel-blue Cricket-hunter Wasp (Chlorion aerarium) is one of the fastest on the list. It uses its speed to pounce on wasps that are stung and paralyzed.
While it paralyzes wasps, it doesn’t kill them on the spot but drags them away to its nest.
This wasp is also known to have good orientation skills. It sometimes climbs up buildings and trees to establish the shortest route to its nest, particularly after catching a cricket.
9. Giant Ichneumonid Wasp
These wasps (Megarhyssa atrata) are mostly black. They only have a yellow head and yellow legs.
Wasp of these species is often perceived as threatening as many people assume they have very long stingers.
In reality, they only have very long ovipositors. Females use these long ovipositors to lay eggs under tree bark.
It’s on trees that most males of the species can be found. They wait for females to hatch and chew their way out to mate immediately.
Black Wasps with White Stripes
Black wasps can also have horizontal or vertical white stripes such as the following species.
1. Bald-faced Hornet
The Bald-faced Hornet (Dolichovespula maculata) is recognized by its black and white body. It has a mostly black body with white markings on the legs, head, and thorax.
Known as one of the most aggressive wasps found in the US, the Bald-faced Hornet has an omnivorous diet. It eats anything it can find.
The wasp is also known for its aggressive nature when it comes to defending its nest. Bald-faced Hornets are known for their ability to sting and even for a rare ability to spray venom
These black and white wasps spray venom on vertebrates next to their nests that are perceived as threats.
The venom of these wasps can cause temporary blindness.
2. Four-toothed Mason Wasp
This species (Monobia quadridens) is also almost entirely black. An off-white band is found on its tergite.
Similar to the Bald-faced Hornet, this species also delivers a sting that is similar in pain to the Bald-faced Hornet.
The species further differentiates itself by the ability to deliver a sting both for the males and the females.
However, males can’t inject venom with the sting.
These wasps are known to eat pollen, caterpillars, and the larvae of various moths.
3. Fraternal Potter Wasp
The Fraternal Potter Wasp (Eumenes fraternus) has a black body with ivory markings. Its thin body widens from front to back.
Fraternal Potter Wasps are also known for building small mud pot which is used as protection for the eggs females of the species lie.
An egg and a live caterpillar are laid in these miniature mud pots before they are sealed until pupation.
4. Double-banded Scoliid Wasp
Double-banded Scoliid Wasps (Scolia bicincta) are almost entirely black. They only have double white bands that run along their abdomen.
The wings of these wasps are also black or of a darker color such as dark blue.
Adult wasps of the species are considered beneficial. They play a positive role in pollination as they are most interested in consuming pollen.
These wasps can sometimes be seen around parks and gardens. They are also beneficial next to homes as they control grubs which they feed their young.
5. Pseudodynerus quadrisectus
This species has mostly black males. Females are black with ivory stripes. Part of the mason wasps category, the species is known for its complex nest-making abilities using mud.
These nests are used to lay eggs in. As with all mason wasps, the first young wasps to emerge are male. Females tend to emerge a few days later.
The species is known to be mid to large-sized. Females can grow up to 16mm while males only grow to 13mm.
The only visible difference between males and females is given by the ivory markings which are present on the abdomen, thorax, and head of the female.
Unlike other wasps, this species uses existing cavities to create mud chambers for its eggs and a type of live insect used as food.
It prefers to create these mud nests that are small enough to fit an egg and an insect in wooden cavities.
6. Euodynerus Megaera
Euodynerus Megaera is often confused with Pseudodynerus quadrisectus given its visible similarities. However, this species is smaller.
Males grow up to 10mm while females grow up to 12mm.
Otherwise, both species are known to have an almost all-black body. Males have a short black body with black transparent wings.
Females have a black body with ivory bands and ivory markings.
There are 4 ivory bands on the female’s body. 2 of these are on the abdomen while the other 2 bands are seen on its thorax.
The head of the female also shows small ivory markings.
The Blackjacket species (Vespula consobrina) is present in almost all Northern US states. This is a wasp that’s known for its ability to sting.
Identification is based on gender or roles in a eusocial group. Queens is the largest, followed by males. Female wasps are the smallest.
A Blackjacket queen wasp can grow to an above-average size of 17mm.
Female wasps grow to a maximum size of 12mm while males grow to a maximum size between 15 and 16mm.
These wasps are recognized by their numerous posterior white or yellow bands on their bodies.
Multiple bands are distinguished on the abdomen and thorax. The head is also mostly white and black.
These wasps have white legs.
Wing color can differ from worker wasps to male wasps. Most observations find this species has dark brown wings.
Adult wasps of the species are often seen on flowers as they exclusively feed on pollen.
Black Wasps with Yellow Stripes
Wasps can also resemble honey bees when they have black and yellow coloration.
The Yellowjacket is the most common type of black wasp with yellow stripes. It’s often confused with honey bees but Yellowjackets don’t have hairs on their bodies used to carry pollen.
These wasps are sometimes known to have red coloring on their abdomen. However, they are mostly characterized by a lack of thorax and black and yellow abdomens.
These wasps live in groups dominated by a queen that gets to lay eggs to produce more wasps.
Adult Yellowjackets are often seen sucking nectar from flowers and fruits.
Young Yellowjackets are often fed protein-rich foods from sources such as fruits, insects, and even fish. Adult wasps chew these foods before offering them to the young.
Sting-capable, this species is sometimes problematic for humans. However, it’s only females that can sting.
The biggest issue with Yellowjackets is that they attack and sting in groups, as social wasps.
Most other mason wasps live solitary lives and they attack alone which reduces the risk of an adverse reaction in humans following stinging.
People can also differentiate Yellowjackets from similar honey bees by the wasp’s side-to-side flying pattern.
2. Dark Paper Wasp
Dark Paper Wasps (Polistes fuscatus) look differently in the North compared to their Southern counterparts. However, all versions of the Dark Paper Wasp are based on black coloring with red, yellow, or white markings.
These wasps are known for their efficient methods of defending the nest which includes analyzing flight patterns of incoming strange wasps.
The Dark Paper Wasp constructs complex nests using plant fiber and water. It collects water by ingesting it and then regurgitating it when back in the nest.
The species is known to consume a wide variety of foods which includes animal protein.
These wasps are dominated by a foundress. The foundress can use pheromones to control the wasps in a colony.
For example, Dark Paper Wasp foundresses can release a type of venom that makes males copulate with females.
3. Yellow-legged Mud-dauber Wasp
These wasps (Sceliphron caementarium) grow to a maximum size of just above 1 inch. They are characterized by a thin petiole and black and yellow coloring.
The wasps are known for a very long petiole than can make up about half the length of the entire abdomen. Both the petiole and the abdomen are all-black.
In some desert areas of the US, these wasps are seen with a yellow petiole.
The thorax is black with yellow marks. These wasps also have yellow legs.
The Yellow-legged Mud-dauber Wasp is known for eating pollen. Female wasps often sting and paralyze spiders which are fed to larvae.
Favorite flowers where the species is seen consuming pollen include Queen Anne’s Lace.
4. Eastern Cicada-killer Wasp
The Eastern Cicada-killer Wasp (Sphecius speciosus) is one of the natural predators of cicadas. It’s largely found in the Midwest and Southern parts of the country.
These are some of the largest black wasps found in the US.
A black body with yellow stripes characterizes the species. These wasps can be large, depending on the availability of food in their habitat.
Eastern Cicada-killer Wasps can grow anywhere between 1 and 2 inches at most.
Females are larger than male wasps. It’s believed males aren’t given as much food as females, which might be one of the causes they remain smaller in adulthood.
Female wasps carry cicadas which they mainly fee to their female offspring.
5. Hump-backed Beewolf
The Hump-backed Beewolf (Philanthus gibbosus) is sometimes only referred to as a beewolf due to its capacity to hunt bees.
These wasps are black and yellow, often mimicking the look of honeybees so that they can be captured easier.
Beewolf is wasps that eat pollen as adults. However, Beewolf larvae are carnivorous.
This is why female Beewolf wasps are out hunting invertebrates such as bees to feed their larvae.
These wasps are seen either around bees, on flowers, or at ground level as they build underground nests to lay eggs in.
Beewolf wasps are known to sting. While they don’t sting humans unprovoked, their sting can hurt.
These wasps use stingers to paralyze bees which are then transported back to their underground nests to serve as food for carnivorous larvae.
6. Five-banded Thynnid Wasp
Commonly seen in gardens, these wasps (Myzinum quinquecinctum) are known for their black and yellow coloring, similar to Yellowjackets.
They are considered highly beneficial around the house as they eat beetles which can harm plants, flowers, and trees.
These wasps are sometimes used to deter beetle populations. It’s the larvae of certain beetle species that are most problematic.
Beetle larvae can eat plants interrupting their natural growth.
However, these wasps also have a few natural predators such as ants.
Velvet ants are always looking to eat Five-banded Thynnid Wasp larvae.
7. Bramble Mason Wasp
The Bramble Mason Wasp (Ancistrocerus adiabatus) is a mostly black digger wasp.
Characterized by a thin petiole, the wasp is mostly interested in consuming pollen.
Its thorax is black with yellow marks. Its thin petiole is black. The abdomen of these wasps is black with yellow marks.
Bramble Mason Wasps have long brown wings.
Further identification is possible by analyzing its head. These wasps have a black head with 3 yellow spots.
These wasps can sometimes be found in walls. However, most of the wasps found in walls create small nests that don’t produce any type of structural damage to a building.
8. Parancistrocerus perennis
This is a species that is found all across North America. Its black body is further identified by a few yellow lines on its abdomen.
The wings of this species are long and brown.
Sometimes confused with other potter species, the Parancistrocerus perennis is sometimes seen creating mud nests on vertical surfaces such as homes.
These small shelters are made using a mix of water and dirt to shelter the eggs of the species. These black wasps are mostly misidentified with other wasps that build such mud shelters.
However, the Parancistrocerus perennis also has yellow to red legs which further helps its identification compared to other wasps of the Parancistrocerus genus.
9. Smoky-winged Beetle Bandit Wasp
Recognized by their almost all-black body, these wasps (Cerceris fumipennis) are of average size. They grow anywhere between 0.5 to 0.9 inches and they can be found next to parks and woodlands.
Common in suburbs and gardens, these are some of the most difficult black wasps to identify. A yellow band on the abdomen makes identification easier.
However, there are other black wasps with a yellow band which means further physical cues have to be considered.
The species is also known for having a few distinct yellow marks on the head.
Female Smoky-winged Beetle Bandit Wasps have 3 yellow marks on the head while males only have 2 yellow marks on the head.
The species can be seen in solitude in underground nests. These wasps prefer dry soils that are easy to dig.
Another distinct characteristic of the wasps is their diet. They are known to eat common wood beetle.
10. Lobed Mason Wasp
The Lobed Mason Wasp (Ancistrocerus antilope) is found all across North America. It can be identified by the 6 yellow bands on its black body. The species also has a black thorax and a black head with yellow marks.
Its legs are yellow and black.
Mostly similar to other types of mason wasps, the Lobed Mason Wasp has more yellow bands on its body than other wasps of the genus.
They grow anywhere between 0.5 and 0.8 inches.
These wasps are known for nesting in wood as well as underground. They sometimes repurpose the nests of Mud daubers.
Adult wasps are solitary building or repurposing their nests. Most adult Lobed Mason Wasps only consume pollen.
However, these wasps often feed with caterpillars in their larvae stage.