Paper waspPolistes spp.
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: VespidaeSize:Paper wasp adults are about 5/8 to 3/4 in (16-20 mm) long.Characteristics: Paper wasps have long legs. The middle tibia has 2 apical spurs.Color: Brownish with yellow markings; some species with reddish markings.

Where found: Various species throughout the United States.

Comparison with other species: Yellowjacket, hornet, potter and mason wasps, and the spider wasp all share similarities with paper wasps.

Nest: Paper wasps make paper-like nests with an umbrella-like shape. There is a single layer of comb with cells that open downward, hanging down by a single, narrow strand. There is no outer “envelope”. The cells remain open. The thin strand may help keep ants and other intruders out. Nests are smaller than 6 by 8 inches, with about 150-250 cells.

Food: Insects and nectar.

Biology: A paper wasp queen that has overwintered begins to build a nest in the spring. This primary queen nest-builder may be joined by other, secondary, queens in building and maintaining the nest. The secondary queens then will not lay eggs. However, if the dominant queen dies, one of these secondary queens may take over the egg laying, so that the nest can survive. A single egg is laid in each open cell and the larvae are fed protein from insects. Later the cells are capped when the larvae are ready to pupate.

Damage: Paper wasps are beneficial insects. They feed on many insect pests. However, they can and do sting when disturbed, which can be a problem if a nest is touched by someone doing pruning or fruit picking, or if there is a lot of human activity near a nest.

Invasion: Nests are hung from almost any protected structure-twigs and branches of trees and shrubs, porch ceilings, window and door frames, soffits and eaves, rafters, deck floor joists, railings.

How to detect and control paper wasps:

  • Be careful when pruning shrubs and picking fruit. Check for paper wasp nests.
  • If control is desired, be sure that the pesticide registered for this species of wasp will be safe to use on the plant in question.
  • Adult paper wasps are quick to rebuild after the nest is disturbed, so it is important to kill the adults if control is desired.
  • Call Dirks to treat the active nest so removal is safe.