Paper Wasps

The European paper wasp (Polistes dominula) looks very much like a yellowjacket because of its yellow and black coloring but the pattern on its gaster, bulbous behind, are different, and it has a slender waist. Also, the European paper wasp doesn´t quite sting as “mean” as the yellowjacket.
paper wasp on nests

European paper wasps in open “umbrella” type nest.

European paper wasps were introduced into the eastern part of the United States in the late 1970´s. Since then, the wasp has spread to California, Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. P. dominula nests are built at the beginning of summer, than reused and added to during subsequent summers. They are aware of human and/or animal activity up to 20 feet away but are less likely to attack than other Polistes species.
Southwestern Texas Paper Wasp

Apache paper wasp (Polistes apachus) pollinating California´s native coyote bush.

Polistes apaches, (Apache wasp, or southwestern Texas paper wasp) is native to North America. It lives in Texas, New Mexico, southern California and Mexico. The southwestern Texas paper wasp has two yellow stripes on its dorsal of the thorax. (Just a refresher: Insects have 3 body parts – head, thorax and abdomen; dorsal is the back side and ventral is the front). Adults pollinate plants while feeding on nectar but they will attack garden insects with their stingers such as caterpillars to take back to their nests and feed to developing larvae. This particular wasp is usually docile; however, it can be very aggressive when disturbed.
Illustration of a paper wasp nest by Donna Walker

Drawing of a Paper Wasp Nest

Paper Wasps Nests

Paper wasps build umbrella-shape paper nests. They first gather wood fibers from dead wood or plant stems which they chew into a papery pulp. Then the paper wasp queen and her mature workers shape the nest with their mandibles, creating additional cells to lay more eggs. Queens and males mate in the fall; after mating the male wasp dies and the queen finds a suitable place to over-winter until spring. She then builds the stem, the initial part of the nest, that the nest hangs from and several combs of 3-4 cells to begin her colony. Once the queen paper wasp lays her eggs and the larvae hatch, she takes care of these firstborn until they are mature enough to help with building room additions (more cells for new larvae to grow).

Managing Paper Wasp

In nature, paper wasp are quite beneficial, ridding gardens of unwanted insects however, they often build their hanging nests under eaves, porches, patios, and windowsills. If the nest is away from the immediate vicinity of the home, it is best to leave it alone, let the wasps take care of pollinating the flowers and providing insect control, then remove the nest once it is abandoned in the fall. It can be difficult, during the height of spring and summer activity, to keep wasp from coming back after a nest has been knocked down. They will try to build again, in the same exact spot, unless you also remove (scrap off) the stem of the nest attached to a home. For safety reasons, it´s best to hire a professional to remove an active paper wasp nest from your home. Please contact us if you have a paper wasp nest on or near your home:
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References Mallis, A. Handbook of Pest Control, Tenth Edition, Saunders College Publishing, 2011. Print Imes, R. The Practical Entomologist, A Fireside Book, Simon & Schuster Inc., 1992. Print University of California Agricultural & Natural Resources, UC Riverside, IPM (Integrated Pest Management). Online Texas A&M University. Department of Entomology. “Paper Wasp.” Retrieved from Online Wikipedia. “Paper Wasp.” Retrieved from Online
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