Insect of the Month: Paper Wasps


Paper wasp on a leaf. Submitted photo.

Since we are now in the “dog days” of summer, you probably have seen these paper wasps buzzing around or have seen their nests on eaves and other items around homes, or have been stung accidentally by these insects before.

Extension Program Specialist II Wizzie Brown said that paper wasps are reddish brown wasps, sometimes with yellow markings and are about ¾- 1 inch in length with smoky wings.

Mated queens overwinter and emerge in spring to start a small, new nest in which to lay eggs. The colony grows in size throughout spring and summer. During this time workers forage mainly for protein, which is usually obtained by consuming other smaller insects. Colonies reach their peak size in late summer to early fall. Starting in late summer, paper wasps forage on nectar and may be drawn to human inhabited areas that may contain sugary food sources.

Paper Wasp Nest. Submitted Photo.

Paper Wasp Nest. Submitted Photo.

Brown said paper wasps make nests mainly out of chewed wood fiber. The nest is open and hangs from a single filament and is usually constructed in protected areas such as mailboxes, fences, or under the eaves of homes,.

Brown added that paper wasps tend to be fairly unaggressive, so if a nest is in an area where a stinging incidence in unlikely, it is best to leave it alone. If a nest is built in an area where someone may get stung- either in a mailbox, on playground equipment, etc.- then it is recommended to manage wasps and nest.

When nests are just being started by founding females, it may be possible early in the season to discourage paper wasps to nest in a certain area by knocking down the nest repeatedly, although,Brown does not recommend repeated knockdowns when the nest is larger and has multiple wasps.

Synthetic and naturally derived aerosol formulations are available for managing wasps. Brown said that the best way to manage paper wasps is to treat either in the early morning or late evening and to use caution when going near nests.

For more information on wasps, including paper wasps, see our publication E-239: Paper Wasps, Yellowjackets and Solitary Wasps at:, or Paper Wasps at

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