Category: Stinging Insects
Color Burgundy / Yellow
Paper wasps get their common name from the paper-like material out of which they make their nests. Paper wasps are sometimes called umbrella wasps, after the shape of their distinctive nests. Various species are found throughout the United States.
Paper wasps are semi-social and live in small colonies. They eat nectar and other insects including caterpillars and flies.
Paper wasps hang their comb nests from twigs and branches of trees and shrubs, porch ceilings, the tops of window and door frames, soffits, eaves, attic rafters, deck floor joists and railings, etc. In the autumn, inseminated females will seek places to spend the winter, and may find their way indoors, especially if there is a cathedral ceiling present.
Paper Wasp Nest
The nests of most true paper wasps are characterized by having open combs with cells for brood rearing, and a petiole, or constricted stalk, that anchors the nest. Paper wasps secrete a chemical which repels ants, which they spread around the base of the anchor to prevent the loss of eggs or brood.
Most social wasps of the family Vespidae make nests from paper; although some stenogastrine species, such as Liostenogaster flavolineata, use mud. A small group of eusocial crabronid wasps, of the genus Microstigmus (the only eusocial wasps outside the family Vespidae), also construct nests out of chewed plant fibers, though the nest consistency is quite different from those of true paper wasps, due to the absence of wood fibers, and the use of silk to bind the fibers.
Unlike yellowjackets and hornets, which can be very aggressive, polistine paper wasps will generally only attack if they themselves or their nest are threatened. Since their territoriality can lead to attacks on people, and because their stings are quite painful and can produce a potentially fatal anaphylactic reaction in some individuals, nests in human-inhabited areas may present an unacceptable hazard.
Most wasps are beneficial in their natural habitat, and are critically important in natural biocontrol. Paper wasps feed on nectar, and other insects, including caterpillars and flies.
Paper wasps are not an aggressive species by nature, but will sting if they are disturbed or their nest is threatened. Their sting is painful and has the same risk of allergic reaction as with other stinging insects.
Before trimming shrubs or hedges, or picking fruit, check the plant for paper wasp nests. Treat wood fences and deck railings with a repellent oil to deter paper wasps from gathering cellulose from the wood. If you suspect you have a paper wasp infestation or find a nest on your home or property, contact a licensed pest management professional. Do not attempt to remove a nest on your own, as there is a high probability you will get stung.