Paper wasps are a common nuisance for homeowners due to their fondness for building their nests in the yards of homes. They are sometimes called umbrella wasps, after the shape of their distinctive nests.
|Color||Adult paper wasps are typically brownish with yellow markings, although a few species have red markings.|
|Size||Adults are 5/8-1" long.|
|Appearance||While their appearance can vary slightly by species, all paper wasps have distinctive long legs that dangle below their body in flight. They do not have fuzzy bodies.|
Adults feed on plant nectar and honeydew. Larvae are fed insects, including caterpillars, flies, and beetle larvae.
Habitat & Nests
Paper wasps are often identified by their open, exposed nests that resemble an upside down umbrella. These nests can get quite large late in the season, and adult wasps will readily sting if they sense danger approaching. Paper wasp nests are built by overwintering queens in the fall to survive the winter. Supported by a single stalk, the comb nests are constructed of a paper-like material, made by combing plant fibers with saliva to make water-resistant nests. Each tier is not enclosed by a paper cover.
Nests are constructed in protected locations such as under and within the eaves of structures, in attics and wall voids, and in many other enclosed areas. Some of the more notable locations to encounter nests include exterior lighting fixtures, parking meters, bird boxes, trees, vents, fences, window or door frames and infrequently used equipment like gas grills, motor homes, and boats.
Colonies & Life Cycle
Wasps are social insects that live in colonies, containing three castes: workers, males, and queens.
A single fertilized queen from the previous year is responsible for starting a new paper wasp nest in early spring. She raises the first generation of workers on her own. During mid-June, small infertile female wasps emerge as "workers" to take on the tasks of foraging for food, expanding the nest, taking care of the queen, and defending the colony while the queen limits her activity to laying eggs. With optimal temperatures and a plentiful food source, the larvae complete their development and become adult wasps in as little as 40 days. In late fall or winter, the nests are abandoned and only the fertilized queen survives to overwinter. These queens overwinter in protected areas such as under the bark of dead trees, in hollow trees, within wall voids of houses, under siding and occasionally within the cells of a paper wasp nest.
Nests are typically small, containing a few dozen to as many as 100 workers. As fall approaches, colonies produce males and new queens, which leave the nest to mate. After mating, the new queens burrow into the ground where they spend the winter. All workers, the males, and the old queen perish around November. The same nest is not used again.
Stings & Damage
These wasps are aggressive and can deliver repeated, painful stings. They will sting if provoked with symptoms ranging from swelling to the same risk of allergic reaction as other insect stings. Their nests do not cause structural damage to buildings.
Signs of Infestation
Check your home and garden in early spring for nests the size of walnuts or golf balls. Additionally, look for nests in lofts, garages, sheds, cavity walls or under eaves. Early nests have fewer wasps and are easier to treat quickly.
Prevention & Control
The best way to prevent a paper wasp infestation and the potential of getting stung is to make the home less attractive to the stinging insect.
- Keep windows and doors shut to prevent wasps entering inside your home.
- Seal cracks and crevices in the home with a silicone-based caulk.
- Repair any tears in screens.
- Ensure outside garbage bins have tightly fitting lids. Keep bins at a distance from doors and windows so wasps are not attracted to the contents.
- Keep food covered, especially when outdoors, to help keep these insects at bay when they are in search of nourishment.
- If you have spotted a nest, make sure you keep children and pets away from the area.
- Get early nest treatment.
- Avoid swatting at the wasp or running, as quick movements may elicit an attack.
- Avoid the use of scented perfumes and soaps, and wear gray, white or tan to reduce the chances of a wasp approaching you.
If the wasps are present in an area where they will not bother people, it is best to leave them alone. They will be gone after the first frost, and they will not return to the same nesting site the following year. They do not present a danger unless the nest is disturbed. If you attempt to remove the nest using do-it-yourself measures, there is a high likelihood that you will be stung. If someone allergic to wasp stings is stung by paper wasps, they can potentially go into anaphylactic shock.
The best thing a homeowner can do if they believe paper wasps have infested their property is to call a professional pest management service to take care of the problem knowledgeably and successfully. A Batzner Service Specialist will come to your property to identify the nesting sites and determine the proper treatment method. Once treatment is applied it may take up to 72 hours to see a reduction in activity at the nesting site. In order to get rid of paper wasps on a property, a pest control professional will need to eliminate all adults in the nest otherwise the colony will quickly rebuild. Once the colony is eliminated, the rest of the nest can be removed. A preventative exterior treatment is also available to deter paper wasps from building nests in your eaves, soffits, and peaks.