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Paper wasps

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Paper Wasps

Paper wasps are robust, hairy, golden brown or grayish-brown bees, usually ½ inch long or less as adults.


Paper wasp

Paper wasp


Paper wasps, Polistes species, are 1/2-inch to 3/4-inch long. They are brown wasps with orange or yellow markings and long legs that hang down as they fly about. Like most wasps, they have a narrow, pinched waist and a spindle-shaped abdomen with a stinger.


Paper wasp nests are open, resembling an inverted umbrella. The nests face downward and, unlike the nests of yellowjackets and hornets, are not enclosed in a paper envelope.


The subordinate wasps also search for food and care for the wasp larvae. Paper wasp colonies are small, usually fewer than 200 wasps per nest. Colonies endure only for a single season–most colony members die with the onset of winter. Overwintering mated queens take refuge in protected places, including attics, during the winter. In the spring these so-called “foundress” queens begin building new nests.


Paper wasps nest

Paper wasps

Life Cycle: Paper wasps are semi-social insects and colonies contain three castes: workers, queens and males. Fertilized queens, which appear similar to workers, overwinter in protected habitats such as cracks and crevices in structures or under tree bark. In the spring they select a nesting site and begin to build a nest. Eggs are laid singly in cells and hatch into legless grub-like larvae that develop through several stages (instars) before pupating.


Cells remain open until developing larvae pupate. Sterile worker wasps assist in building the nest, feeding young and defending the nest. A mature paper wasp nest may have 20 to 30 adults. In late summer, queens stop laying eggs and the colony soon begins to decline. In the fall, mated female offspring of the queen seek overwintering sites. The remainder of the colony does not survive the winter.


Sting Prevention : Paper wasps and hornets have a lance-like stinger and can sting repeatedly. When a paper wasp or hornet is near you, slowly raise your hands to protect your face, remaining calm and stationary for a while and then move very slowly away. Never swing, strike or run rapidly away since quick movement often provokes attack and painful stings. Restrain children from throwing rocks or spraying nests with water. Avoid creating loud noises and disturbance near the nest.


When outdoors, avoid the use of heavily scented soaps, shampoos, perfumes, colognes, after-shaves and cosmetics. Avoid shiny buckles and jewelry. Cover exposed skin and wear gray, white or tan rather than bright colors. Also, remember that if a paper wasp or hornet gets into the automobile while driving, never panic. It wants out of the car as much as you want it out. Slowly pull over off the road, and open the car windows and doors. Trying to remove or kill a paper wasp or hornet while the car is moving can result in accidents.


After being stung, immediately apply a poultice of meat tenderizer to the wound. If the sting is not deep, this will break down the components of the sting fluid, reducing the pain.


Damage: Wasps can be found on flowers, particularly from goldenrod in late fall. Paper wasp nests can be dislodged from eaves using sprays of high pressure water from a good distance, taking precautions not to allow wasps to attack nearby people or pets. Wasps will eventually abandon the nest.


Paper wasp Nest

Paper wasp Nest

controls: Commercial wasp and hornet aerosols are available to treat paper wasp nests. These should be applied to the nest itself, not to individual wasps. Many of these contain pyrethrins or pyrethroids. In addition, some contain a “freezing” agent that stuns the wasps to prevent them. from stinging. Be very careful if you decide to use one of these and be certain to follow label directions.


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