Paper Wasps

Polistes spp.

Color: Brownish with yellow markings; a few species with reddish markings
Legs: 6
Shape: Wasp-like with long legs
Size 5/8 – 3/4 inch
Antennae: Yes
Region Found throughout U.S.


Paper wasps get their common name from the paper-like material out of which they make their nests. Paper wasps are sometimes called umbrella wasps, after the shape of their distinctive nests. Various species are found throughout the United States.


Paper wasps are semi-social and live in small colonies. They eat nectar and other insects including caterpillars and flies.


Paper wasps hang their comb nests from twigs and branches of trees and shrubs, porch ceilings, the tops of window and doorframes, soffits, eaves, attic rafters, deck floor joists and railings, etc. In the autumn, inseminated females will seek places to spend the winter, and may find their way indoors, especially if there is a cathedral ceiling present.


Paper wasps are not an aggressive species by nature, but will sting if they are disturbed or their nest is threatened. Wasp stings are painful and cause the same risk of allergic reaction as with other insect stings.

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