Technical Papers

Pests We Treat - Paper Wasps: The Semi-Social Stinging Insect

Monday, July 6th, 2020 by Bill Cowley

Paper Wasps

Paper Wasps, also called umbrella wasps, are semi-social stinging insects that usually have brown bodies with yellow or reddish markings. They range in size from five-eighths to three-quarters of an inch long and are known for the long legs that extend out from their oval bodies. Due to their coloration and body shape, they are often mistaken for yellowjackets but have a slimmer waist and a triangular side view.

Paper wasps received their name from the paper-like material out of which they make their nests. They live in small colonies and do not have a worker caste (which is why they are sem-social insects). In the fall, females will seek a place to spend the winter, and this is the most likely time for them to enter your home.

Their diet consists of nectar, flies, and other insects. Paper wasps build their nests to hang from objects such as tree branches, porch ceilings, the tops of window and doorframes, soffits, eaves, etc. Their nests start off small, but if left untreated, they can grow to the size of a basketball and contain over 400 paper wasps! A sting from a paper wasp can be extremely painful and can cause allergic reactions in some people. 

How Do Paper Wasps Enter Your Home?

Paper wasps may enter homes through open windows and doors, cracks in siding or masonry work, and torn window screens. If you see them flying in and out of a crack or crevice of your home do not make the mistake of sealing their entry point before exterminating them. If you do, you could trap them inside your home! 

The best way to prevent a paper wasp infestation is to make your home less attractive. Seal any cracks and crevices with a waterproof, premium adhesive, repair any tears in screens as well as replace any broken screens ASAP, and try to keep all doors closed to prevent paper wasps from entering the home. Also, when gardening or trimming branches and shrubs, make sure to carefully inspect the area first so you don't accidentally disturb an active paper wasp nest.