Michigan is home to a number of different wasp varieties, including the largest wasp in North America, which is native to Michigan.
Wasp season usually starts in June and continues through to the fall, during this time you will see more wasps than normal.
Continue reading below to learn more about the 30 common wasps in Michigan, from the most popular to the least popular.
Table of Contents
1. Dark Paper Wasp
Dark paper wasps (Polistes fuscatus) are often found around human habitats, though they prefer wooded areas and savannas.
Growing to 21mm in length, only the female dark paper wasp has a venomous sting, which is compared to a tattoo needle.
The characteristics are determined by the location with three color patterns represented by the region where the wasp is. The males in Michigan have a dark dorsal service with females having black on their entire body, sometimes with no additional colors or markings.
2. Bald-faced Hornet
Bald-faced hornet (Dolichovespula maculata) belongs to the Vespidae family and is a species of yellow jacket wasp. They live in colonies of up to seven hundred workers and are easily identified for their large hanging paper nest, which they defend aggressively by stinging invaders.
These wasps are black and white. They have three white stripes at the end of the body, growing to 19mm in length. Their egg-shaped nests can be up to 360mm in diameter and more than 580mm in length.
3. European Paper Wasp
European paper wasps (Polistes dominula) are common wasps with a diverse diet, which includes caterpillars.
These black and yellow wasps are aggressive and common.
Females have a black mandible, often with a yellow spot. The spot on the male varies in size and location, they are smaller and more aggressive than the female.
4. Great Black Digger Wasp
The great black digger wasp (Sphex pensylvanicus) can grow to 1.4 inches (35mm) in length with the larvae eating live insects that the female carries into the nest.
The males are smaller than females, growing to 28mm in body length.
These large and dark wasps have smoky-colored wings and a black body.
5. Eastern Yellowjacket
Eastern yellowjackets (Vespula maculifrons) are considered pests as they tend to nest in recreational areas and buildings. They are also known to aggressively defend their hives while inflicting a painful sting.
This wasp is readily identified with its small size and abdominal pattern. They have black and yellow lines on the abdomen, thorax, and head with a curved body. The lines are based on hierarchy within the nest with queens having one flared line on the thorax and two black dots between each line.
Eastern yellowjackets can grow to 15.9mm with queens being the larges, followed by males and then workers.
Their nests can contain thousands of workers. Nests are made from decayed wood, which makes them tan to brown or red to orange. They can be found just above the ground, often in buildings.
In some areas, they build their nests underground, covered in soil. These are more common on creek banks and hardwood forests. They build the nest in a sheltered area, such as underground, in tree stumps, or in attics, where they are considered a pest.
6. Common Aerial Yellowjacket
The common aerial yellowjacket (Dolichovespula arenaria) is often called the sandhill hornet or common yellow hornet. These wasps are yellow without any black marketings n the ocular sinus. Queens have large black discal spots and large antennae.
This is one of the most common yellowjackets in Michigan and found in subterranean to arboreal habitats with nests being located in shrubs and trees, along with being seen on buildings.
7. Great Golden Digger Wasp
The great golden digger wasp (Sphex ichneumoneus) is not an aggressive wasp species. They will mind their own business, as long as you leave them alone. They are often observed sipping on nectar during the summer months.
Females dig into the loose soil, creating deep tunnels, which she uses to hide her egg. Females then find an insect and paralyze them, flying it back to her tunnel. It’s not uncommon to see birds chasing her for the insect while in flight. No other wasp is known to be harassed by birds in this manner.
If she can get the insect back to the nest, she places the prey inside a tunnel, laying an egg on the insect. She repeats this with each tunnel, laying an egg on the insect. Unlike many other wasps, she does not defend her nest.
Once the larvae hatch, they feed on the insect prey that was left for them in the tunnel, leaving the tunnel in the summer. These wasps are a beautiful orange and black color.
8. Eastern Cicada-killer Wasp
The Eastern cicada killer wasp (Sphecius speciosus) is the largest wasp in Michigan, also known as the cicada hawk. This is a large solitary digger wasp that preys on cicadas, using them to provision their nest. They naturally control the cicada populations.
An adult eastern cicada killer wasp can grow up to 5cm (2 inches) in length. They are very robust wasps with red and black areas on their middle parts, black to red/brown on the rear with light yellow stripes. Females are larger than males, but both are large, which makes them fearsome.
9. Acorn Plum Gall Wasp
Acorn plum galls are reflective in coloration, along with the growth they create on an oak tree. They are red with speckles, giving them a plum appearance. They grow attached to a twig with acorns or an acorn on the tree.
They are known for causing galls to form on oak trees with females laying eggs on leaves and twigs of the tree, causing swellings to occur around the immature larvae, which creates the gall. The wasp remains in the gall until mature, which causes the gall to break open and release the wasp.
10. Yellow-legged Mud-dauber Wasp
The yellow-legged mud dauber wasp (Sceliphron caementarium) is also known as the black and yellow mud dauber. They are encountered in a range of habitats from rocky ledges to water edges, longleaf pines, Cyprus domes, turkey oaks, and man-made structures.
This wasp can grow to 1.10 inches (28mm) and have a black petiole. The thorax has yellow markings with a black and yellow abdomen. They are the only wasp with yellow markings on their legs in the United States and tawny-colored wings.
11. German Yellowjacket
The German yellowjacket (Vespula germanica) was introduced to North America, where it has become well established. Belonging to the Vespidae family, they are often confused with paper wasps, due to building gray paper nests.
These wasps can grow to 0.5 inches (13mm) and are black and yellow. They feed on native arthropods, causing harm to indigenous wildlife. Their nests are made from chewed plant fibers and saliva, often encountered below ground. They are also known to create nests in attics.
12. American Pelecinid Wasp
The American Pelecinid wasp (Pelecinus polyturator) looks more like a small alien but is a useful parasite controlling beetles. Their long and glossy abdomen can cause fear in humans, but interestingly they do not sting. They rely on grubs in the ground for egg-laying.
Females poke deep into the soil until she finds a grub, laying an egg on it and then looking for the next. When the wasp hatches, the larva burrows into the grub, eating it from the inside out.
While they don’t have a stinger, they will try and poke the tip of their abdomen into any threats, to push or scare them away. Males are smaller in size and rarely seen. They feed on nectar and fly very low, always staying close to the ground.
13. Fraternal Potter Wasp
The fraternal potter wasp (Eumenes fraternus) belongs to the Vespidae family, native to the United States. Females build tiny pots where they lay their eggs, with a live caterpillar, which feeds the developing larva. Adults feed on nectar.
These wasps have a long and slender first abdominal segment, which is thin at the front and widens at the back. They grow to 20mm (0.8 inches) and are black with ivory markings.
They are common in forests and shrubby areas, usually from April through November.
14. Nearctic Blue Mud-dauber Wasp
The Nearctic blue mud dauber wasp (Chalybion californicum) is a metallic blue wasp first described in 1867. The males do not have a stinger. Females build nests or refurbish abandoned wasps and add a spider in with an egg, which provides food for the developing larva.
This species is famous for being a predator of the venomous black widow spider. Adults feed on nectar, which gives them power for flight. They are pollinators for wildflowers, preferring to hunt on the ground or under rocks.
15. Long-tailed Giant Ichneumonid Wasp
The long-tailed giant ichneumonid wasp (Megarhyssa macrurus) is a parasitoid, known for a long ovipositor, which is used to deposit an egg into a deadwood tunnel.
Growing to 51cm, these wasps are red/brown with black and yellow or orange-colored stripes and transparent wings. Females can grow to 130mm with the ovipositor, while males are significantly smaller without an ovipositor.
The ovipositor of the long-tailed giant ichneumonid wasp can drill into wood. It is very thin and provides a tiny channel that allows an egg to be laid.
These wasps are harmless to humans and are parasites of pigeon horntail larvae. The female detects the larva through the bark, paralyzing them and laying their legs on the living paralyzed larva.
16. Widow Yellowjacket
The widow yellowjacket (Vespula vidua) is a yellow wasp with black markings with spots showing on the yellow on the fourth and fifth abdominal tergite. The females with black clypeal markings are separated from sub-antennal markings, broken by three spots.
They prefer forested areas, though they have been found on the walls of man-made structures. The adults feed on nectar, while larvae feed on anthropoids.
17. Oak Rough Bulletgall Wasp
This wasp (Disholcaspis quercusmamma) belongs to the Cynipidae family, forming galls or bullet galls, which are named due to their size and shape. Host plants are bur oak, swamp white oak, and overcup oak.
The sex of the wasp is determined by haplodiploid, which means males develop from unfertilized eggs and are haploid, while females develop from fertilized eggs and are diploid.
18. Four-toothed Mason Wasp
The four-toothed mason wasp is a solitary potter wasp, often encountered in Michigan. Growing to 0.71 inches (18mm) they feed mostly on nectar and caterpillars. These are black wasps with an ivory band on the first tergite and a wingspan of 0.71 inches (18mm) in females.
The four toothed mason wasp can deliver a painful sting, which is considered similar to that of the bald-faced hornet. The males cannot sting but can give a painful needle prick, though they do not have venom. They use the tip of their abdomen.
19. Hedgehog Gall Wasp
Hedgehog gall wasps (Acraspis erinacei) are interesting, as they have formed a unique reproduction system with egg sacs or galls that are attached to trees. These black wasps, sometimes have a yellow to brown appearance. They have a humpbacked shape with two-segmented abdomens and transparent wings without any stinger, so no risk of being stung.
Their reproduction method is fascinating. They insert eggs inside the white oak leaves, which causes the leave to form glass on the stem, swelling in size and forming a yellow pustule with red hairs. These galls are around 13mm in diameter containing up to five larval cells.
Adult females emerge from the galls in the late fall, laying eggs without having to mate on leaf buds. These galls grow over winter, hatching in the early spring, which emerges as both male and female, who then mate. Mated females lay their eggs on leaves, which stimulate the tree to form furry galls, which protect the larva.
20. Four-banded Stink Bug Wasp
The four-banded slink bug wasp (Bicyrtes quadrifasciatus) can grow to 19mm and are most common from June to October. Adults tend to forage on flowers, sipping on nectar. The female will provision the nest with paralyzed True Bugs for the developing larva.
These are sand wasps, which belong to the Crabronidae family. The black wasp has yellow banding on the abdomen.
21. Mexican Grass-carrying Wasp
The Mexican grass-carrying wasp (Isodontia mexicana) belongs to the Sphecidae family, common in Michigan. It has established itself around the world, growing to 0.79 inches (20mm) with a black hairy body. The wings are smoky brown.
These wasps are more common from early summer through to September, with females emerging as adults later than the males, making them a larger size. They build nests in hollowed branches and natural cavities, reusing nests from other species.
The inside of the nest is lined with grass fragments and plant fibers. They prey on grasshoppers and tree crickets, choosing the smallest ones and carrying them to the net to feed the developing larvae.
22. Hump-backed Beewolf
The hump-backed beewolf (Philanthus gibbosus) is often referred to simply as beewolf. These are bee hunting wasps and common in Michigan.
They are often observed visiting flowers and plants searching for insects to feed their larvae, which they coat in pollen before feeding to the young wasps.
These are small wasps, growing to around 12mm in length. They have a board head that has a coat of chitin in shiny black with yellow spots. Their abdomen has yellow stripes, as does the thorax. The abdomen has deep punctures, helping with identification.
The female hump-backed beewolf grows to 2mm and is on the smaller side with more yellow coloration on their heads. The male resembles the female but does not have yellow on their head. They prefer forest areas and coastal regions, where they build nests in the sand.
23. Black Giant Ichneumonid Wasp
Black giant ichneumonid wasps (Megarhyssa atrata) can grow to one and a half inches in length, with females growing to five inches when including her ovipositor. They are parasites of wood-boring insect larvae, often found in deciduous forests.
The ovipositor of the female is often mistaken as a threatening stinger, found at the tip of the abdomen. This is what the female uses to lay eggs in the hardwood of trees. They are not known to sting humans.
They are known to hunt for where horntail wasps are laid. The female carefully looks for holes and cracks created by the host, creating her own close to the horntail eggs. The giant ichneumonid wasp larvae then feed on the horntail larvae. They pupate in the tree, then they chew their way to the surface.
Males are attracted by the chewing noise and are often seen on tree trunks waiting for a female to emerge, so he can mate with her right away.
They are common in woodlands and forests, usually on tree trunks, especially dead or deciduous trees that are drying. They are most active from spring to summer.
24. Succulent Oak Gall Wasp
Succulent oak gall wasps (Dryocosmus quercuspalustris) are small wasps growing to 4.5mm in body length. The adult has a very distinct body shape, known as a wasp waits. They are dark brown to black with light-colored legs, transparent wings, and long antennae.
These wasps create galls on oak and pin oak trees, where the plant is the host to hatching larvae. Galls are abnormal plant growths that the larvae feed off. They can be found on twigs or between the foliage, creating a favorable habitat and food source for the larvae as it matures.
25. Metric Paper Wasp
Metric paper wasps (Polistes metricus) are dark-colored with yellow tarsi and black tibia often found on the sides of shrubs, trees, and buildings. They use soft-bodied prey to feed larvae, often choosing caterpillars.
Females have a rusty red color on the head with limited yellow markings. Males tend to be more black with less rusty red coloration and more yellow on the legs.
Their chosen nesting sites focus on sheltering from the elements, lighting, and water source. They tend to build nests in barns, under eaves, and in sheds, preferring well-lit locations.
26. Larger Empty Oak Apple Wasp
The larger empty oak apple wasp (Amphibolips quercusinanis) is a gall wasp, that creates galls on northern red oaks. The gall usually takes over the leaf, which can be up to one and a half inches in diameter. The galls are glossy in bright green with small red spots.
Adults emerge in June and later turn to a light brown colored wasp.
27. Spongy Oak Apple Gall Wasp
The adult spongy oak apple gall wasp (Amphibolips confluenta) is a small and dark wasp with an oval abdomen that is often encountered on red, scarlet, and black oaks. Their galls are created in spring, as the young leaves form, sometimes they take over the entire leaf.
28. Oak Apple Gall Wasp
The oak apple gall wasp (Amphibolips cookii) is a tiny wasp that causes galls on oak twigs. The galls are commonly found between May and June, once the female has laid eggs n the leaf. There are several chambers inside the glass, each one housing a larva.
Adults emerge in June and July. The galls are easy to identify, they are brown apple-looking galls on the twigs of oak trees. They can be found in gardens, farmlands, and woodland.
29. Gold-marked Thread-waisted Wasp
The gold-marked thread-waisted wasp (Eremnophila aureonotata) can grow to 22mm in body length. They’re black with blue reflections, along with two silver to gold patches on either side of the thorax.
They are often encountered in woodlands, found on wildflowers with blossom clusters.
Adults sip on nectar, while their larvae feed on other larvae. Females dig burrows and place a single caterpillar in with a larva, which the larva then feeds on.
30. Wool Sower Gall Wasp
The wool sower gall wasp (Callirhytis seminator) is a harmless Cynipid gall wasp that lays its eggs on a specific plant, producing grubs and causing a gull to form. The gall provides the larvae with nutrition and protection.
They prefer oak trees. The galls do not harm the tree with a wasp emerging within about three weeks.