The three species of Florida yellowjackets are readily separated by differences in body color and pattern. Identification is possible without a hand lens or microscope, and, for this reason, a simple pictorial key is all that is necessary. In general, the term “hornet” is used for species which nest above ground and the term “yellowjacket” for those which make subterranean nests. All species are social, living in colonies of hundreds to thousands of individuals. Nests near homes may prove a source of irritation. If the nests are large or difficult to approach, for example within the walls of a house, the safest procedure would be to hire a pest control operator to eliminate the colony.
The various species of wasps fall into one of two main categories: solitary wasps and social wasps. Adult solitary wasps live and operate alone, and most do not construct nests (below); all adult solitary wasps are fertile. By contrast, social wasps exist in colonies numbering up to several thousand individuals and build nests—but in some cases not all of the colony can reproduce. In some species, just the wasp queen and male wasps can mate, whilst the majority of the colony is made up of sterile female workers. Wasps build their nests in a variety of places, often choosing sunny spots. Nests are commonly located in holes underground, along riverbanks or small hillocks, attached to the side of walls, trees or plants, or underneath floors or eaves of houses. Wasp nests found in public places (such as in latrines or other commonly used public spaces) should be reported to the local council or pest control service for removal.