Paper wasps derive their name from their uncanny habit of constructing papery nests from chewed up dead plant stems and wood mixed with their saliva. They are also called vespid wasps or the umbrella wasps because of the distinct umbrella shape of their nests.
Paper wasps have a reputation for being stingers and their sting is quite painful. But these wasps are also beneficial to the ecosystem around them. They are good for gardens around them because they pollinate flowers plus they chew up caterpillars that invade your garden and feed on their larvae as well.
How to identify paper wasps
The easiest way to identify this species of wasps is through their nest. It looks like an upside down paper comb hanging off a horizontal surface by a single stalk. Physically the wasp is about half an inch to an inch long and they have a reddish brown hue. They can also be yellow and blackish red. Their bodies are however, not fuzzy at all.
Because they do not lose their sting after stinging you like bees do, they can sting you repeatedly especially when they feel threatened or their colony is threatened.
They have a queen
Paper wasps have a queen whom they protect at all costs. She is probably the reason you get stung when you go near their colony. She gives birth to the worker wasps who continually expand the colony and nest. They forage for food and also care for the new larvae waiting to mature. The wasps will abandon the nests in the winter and most of the workers perish leaving the fertilized queen to survive until spring when she brings forth a new brood to start the colony cycle again.
Are paper wasp stings dangerous?
Yes they are to people who are allergic to stings. Some people will only experience localized pain and swelling which dissipates after an hour or two. However, some people are very allergic to stings and they can react in a number of ways including
- Experiencing difficulty in breathing
- Swelling of the face, tongue, lips and eyelids
- Muscle cramps
- Nausea and vomiting
- Dizziness and fainting
- Cardiac arrhythmia
- Breaking out in hives
Paper wasp love to make their home inside a house or right outside the house on one of the horizontal beams. Clearing them out is imperative to the safety of everyone in the house.