How To Identify a Paper Wasp (2022 Edition)

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Paper wasps are a common species of wasp in North America that build nests in backyards, attics, crevices, and under the eaves of your porch. Like any wasp or yellowjacket, paper wasps can be aggressive if they feel threatened. Because of this, it is a good idea to identify them and know if you are dealing with an infestation. Having as much information about these common pests as possible can help you decide on your best course of action for removing them. 

In this article, you will learn: 

  • How to Identify Paper Wasps 
  • Paper Wasp Behavior and Habits 
  • What Attracts Paper Wasps
  • How You Can Get Rid of Paper Wasps

By knowing everything you can about paper wasps, you can stay informed and protect your home and family from any possible dangers. 

Reviewed By:
Ed Spicer

Ed has been working in the pest control industry for years helping 1,000's of homeowners navigate the world of insect and rodent management. He manages Pest Strategies now helping homeowners around the world!

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Table Of Contents

    How to Identify Paper Wasps 

    Paper wasps get their name from the fact that they will chew up wood and paper fibers and mix them with their saliva to create their distinct umbrella-shaped nests. They are also called umbrella wasps for this same reason. Paper wasp nests look like upside down paper domes hanging from a horizontal surface like the eaves on your porch or a branch in a tree. If you notice a paper wasp nest in or around your home, it is highly recommended that you leave it alone and have a professional come and remove it. Paper wasps are stinging insects and can sting multiple times, and small children and older adults are very susceptible to their stings. While the nests will most likely be the first thing you notice when you have a paper wasp infestation, you can also identify them individually. 

    Paper wasps are usually found throughout the entire United States and are most common in fairly highly populated areas. This is because they need materials and fibers to build their nests, and these items are much easier to find in places where there are many people around. They have six long legs and large antennae that protrude from their head. They will be slightly darker in color than other wasps and yellowjackets, and their torsos will be a little bit thinner. 

    Individual paper wasps measure between a half-inch and 1.5 inches in length. Most of them will be around one inch altogether, though. They come in various colors, such as orange, reddish-brown, and dark red. Some of them will have yellow markings or red stripes that are very bright and distinctive. 

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    Paper Wasp Behavior and Habits 

    Paper wasps, like most other wasps and yellowjackets, will not usually sting you unless they are provoked. However, they can be very aggressive when defending their homes and looking after their territory. They are also fairly social insects and, like bees, have a very hierarchical way of living. They are broken into castes such as queens, workers, and male paper wasps. When this social order is disturbed by human intervention, they can quickly become agitated and attack. 

    Paper wasps will start to build their nest when spring arrives, and there are a lot of plants from which they can get the wood fiber they need to build. They will also look for man-made wood structures and paper fibers anywhere they can and build their nest in protected areas like door frames and awnings. This is one of the reasons paper wasps will end up stinging people. Because their nests are usually built in high-traffic areas like this, you may inadvertently disturb them. 

    For the most part, paper wasps will leave you alone if you leave them alone. In fact, they are an incredibly beneficial insect to have around your home since they eat more harmful insects like mosquitoes. However, paper wasp colonies can have up to 200 cells in them, which can contain larvae and many more adults, so you can’t be sure how many you are dealing with when you have an infestation. One paper wasp sting can be painful, but 200 could be potentially deadly. 

    This is why it is so important that you get a pest control professional to come and remove a paper nest before the queen has a chance to lay eggs. This will reduce the likelihood that there will be more adults around to build another nest, and you can be sure that your infestation has been completely removed. While paper wasps may be no more aggressive than a bumblebee or honeybee, their ability to remove their stinger after giving someone a painful sting gives them the chance to sting multiple times. This can result in a bad reaction and require immediate medical attention. 

    Paper wasp stings contain toxins, which can cause severe allergic reactions in human beings and even death in small children and animals.

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    What Are Paper Wasps Attracted To?

    Paper wasps will be attracted to scents that mimic the smell and look of their natural targets for pollination. This means that if you have a paper wasp infestation, you should avoid using perfumes and wearing bright colors that might attract them. While they are not very likely to attack unprovoked, they could end up being attracted to something you are wearing and will feel threatened when they realize you are not what they thought you were. 

    You should also avoid a paper wasp nest whenever possible. Because they can be so territorial, there are a lot of dangers associated with getting near their colonies. It doesn’t take much to stir up a colony, and you could find yourself getting stung multiple times if you do. Paper wasp stings contain toxins, which can cause severe allergic reactions in human beings and even death in small children and animals. Their stings can also transfer bacteria to the bloodstream, leading to sepsis if it isn’t taken care of right away. 

    How Do You Get Rid of Paper Wasps?

    If you have a paper wasp nest in your backyard, it is incredibly important that you do not try to remove it yourself. As mentioned above, disturbing a paper wasp nest is one of the ways they will become very aggressive. When this happens, you could end up getting swarmed by them, which can be dangerous. Having a professional remove the paper wasps and wasp nest is always your best, safest option. They will know how to handle it and get it away from your home safely. 

    Paper wasps are attracted to their pheromones, and some of them can even provoke them to attack. Because of this, you should never squish or step on wasps that are in your yard or around your home. This releases their pheromones and alerts the other wasps in the area that there is a problem, making the colony aggressive. A good rule of thumb with paper wasps is to leave them alone whenever possible but remove them when necessary. 

    Final Thoughts

    If you have a paper wasp nest in your yard, find a good pest control professional to remove it. They will know how to get rid of it, but they will also help ensure that they cannot come back and build another nest. Many pest control companies have exclusion techniques that they can use to make sure your yard is safe all year and that will allow you to rest easy knowing you are protected.

    Identifying a paper wasp nest and correctly dealing with it is essential if you live in an area where they are common. Taking the necessary steps towards protecting yourself and your family can help you feel better when you are out in your backyard and confident knowing that no people or pets are in danger of getting a painful or harmful sting. 

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