Paper Wasp


Actual Size: 0.75 to 1.25”

Characteristics: Black abdomen, mahogany body with a distinct yellow ring, black wings

Legs: 6

Antennae: Yes

Habitat: Build umbrella-shaped, paper-like nests in residential yards. Nests often hang from twigs and branches, porch ceilings, and more.


  • Eat nectar and other insects, including flies and caterpillars
  • Female wasps will help each other build nests but only one queen will lay eggs
  • Known as semi-social wasps that live in small colonies without a worker caste

Paper Wasps in Wisconsin

There are over 22 species of paper wasps in the U.S., and most of them are brownish in color with yellow markings. 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. Adult paper wasps are typically brownish with yellow markings, although a few species have red markings. Adults feed on plant nectar and honeydew. Larvae are fed insects, including caterpillars, flies, and beetle larvae.

Paper Wasp 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.

Paper Wasp Behaviors & Dangers

Similar to mud daubers, paper wasps are considered to be beneficial to the environment for keeping the insect population under control. They also assist in pollination by feeding on nectar. However, paper wasps are considered aggressive and have been known to sting repeatedly when threatened. For this reason, it’s important to never disturb their nest. Stings can be extremely painful, which is why you should leave it up to a wasp control company to deal with paper wasp infestations in or near your home.