Paper wasps build very distinctive nests with open combs in an umbrella shape that are usually attached by a small stalk (called a petiole) in the eaves of houses. With striking black and yellow coloring, these wasps are often confused with hornets because they have long bodies and legs with an elongated waist that gives them an hourglass like appearance. Unlike yellowjackets and hornets, paper wasps are fairly docile and will only sting when they feel like their nest is being attacked. These wasps typically feed on nectar and other insects and can act as important pollinators.
Females are solitary and build small nests from paper. These nests often appear along the eaves of homes during summer months. They are papery, two to four inches across, and have a honeycomb appearance when viewed from below.
Paper wasps are not very aggressive and do not defend their nests the way yellowjackets do. Because they hunt other insects and feed them to their young, these wasps are actually beneficial. Their nests do not need to be removed unless they are in an area where they may be disturbed by people or pets.
Page last reviewed: December 28, 2023