Paper wasps (aka umbrella wasps) are brown-black with yellow or red markings. To the common eye these wasps look very similar to yellow jackets except they have long legs that dangle when they fly.
Paper wasps are beneficial insects; they feed on other insects including flies, larvae, and insects that damage trees and crops. Mostly a nuisance, they are generally unaggressive and will only attack if their nest is threatened.
Habits & Habitat
Paper wasp colonies are small and often social. Inseminated queens hibernate over the winter and emerge in early spring to start building their nest. Other inseminated queens will often join the “founding queen” to help build and maintain the nest. The founding queen is the sole egg layer, but if she dies, one of the secondary queens will take over the job so the nest can continue to survive.
Paper wasp nests are small to moderate in size and are made of paper-like material – they resemble upside down umbrellas, hence the nickname umbrella wasps. The nests attach to horizontal surfaces by a narrow stem such that the nest hangs ‘upside down’ with the combs facing downward.
Paper wasps will build their nests on a variety of horizontal surfaces including tree branches, twigs, shrubs, porch ceilings, window and door frames, soffits, eaves, attic rafters, deck floor joists, and railings.
Leave It to the Professionals
Paper wasps start foraging for food and collecting nest material in early spring, sometimes as early as February. They can build/rebuild nests very quickly and are active through fall, usually until the first freeze.
Although paper wasps are rarely aggressive, it’s good to exercise caution when trimming trees, shrubs, hedges, pruning plants, and picking fruit from trees. If these wasps feel that their nest is threatened, they will sting. To reduce the risk of serious injury, treating and removing wasp nests is best left to a trained and licensed pest professional.
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