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Paper Wasps

Classification: Insect
Other name: Umbrella wasps (after shape of nest)
Color: Reddish brown to dark brown to bright yellow and black (varies with species)
Size: ½ inch to 1 inch
Food: Caterpillars, flies, beetle larvae, sometimes fruit
Hazard to humans: Can sting, but usually refrains unless nest is threatened.
Interesting fact: When they emerge in the spring, several queen paper wasps will sometimes work together to make a new nest. Eventually one dominates the others, who become workers in the new nest.

Paper Wasps Build Nests from Materials They Produce Themselves

If you’ve got an insect nest attached to your home or in your yard that looks something like a hot air balloon or an umbrella, there’s a good chance that you’re playing host to a group of paper wasps.

Paper wasps are social creatures that build their nests from paper they make themselves, using fibers collected from live plants and from the wood used for posts, decks, sheds, etc. These gray paper nests may house up to 200 hexagonal cells where the female lays its eggs.

Nests are attached to some structure at the top by a single point. Favorite spots include window eaves, porch ceilings, door frames, deck joists or hedges, twigs and branches. Mature nests have only 20 to 30 adults.

Repeat stingers

Paper wasps are a fairly common sight in Maryland:

  • Slender bodies with thin waists
  • Long, thin legs
  • Variety of colors from reddish brown to dark brown to bright yellow and black

They are slower in flight than bumblebees, but unlike bumblebees they can sting repeatedly without dying because they have a smooth stinger. Only the females can sting, and they usually attack only when their nest is threatened.

Paper wasps are active during the day. They are often considered as friends to gardeners since they like to eat caterpillars, flies and beetle larvae that go after vegetable plants.

Nests last only a year

Unless paper wasps are living in an area where they are likely to feel threatened (and thus sting), you can probably leave the nest alone. Paper wasps don’t usually use the same nest from year to year. The workers die off each year and the queen is the only one who lasts through the winter. She finds a dry, protected place to spend the cold months and then emerges in the spring and begins building a new nest.

If paper wasps have built a nest where it must be removed (over your front door, for example), you can spray with insecticides to kill off them off.

  • Work at night
  • Be sure to wear protective clothing
  • Don’t shine light into the nest, since that may anger the wasps and they will come after you.

If you don’t want to even chance getting stung, there’s a better solution. Call Brody Brothers today and have their experts remove the paper wasp nest so you don’t risk getting hurt.

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