Should I get rid of paper wasps?

If you’ve ever had the misfortune of accidentally encountering a gray, papery nest full of bald-faced hornets or running your lawn mower or string trimmer over the entrance hole of a nest of ground-dwelling yellow jackets, you’re well aware of how defensive paper wasps can be. Particularly in the autumn. But you’d be defensive too, if you thought your queen was under attack and you knew that the survival of your queen meant the survival of your species.

All about paper wasps:

  • Members of the paper wasp family (Vespidae) are notorious for their seemingly aggressive behavior in the autumn. These social insects are often mistaken for bees, which they are decidedly not. Though the ground-dwelling species of yellow jackets are commonly called “ground bees”, they are actually wasps.
  • Nests of all species of yellow jackets and hornets are large and paper-like. Ground-nesting yellow jacket species build their papery home underground in an old animal burrow, while hornets build their nests on tree branches or buildings.
  • Almost all species of paper wasps have colonies that do not survive the winter. Instead, they all die at the end of the season and only the fertilized queen survives the winter and goes on to establish a new colony the following spring.
  • Each nest is used only once and is completely abandoned in late fall. Both hornets and yellow jackets are territorial and are not likely to build a nest near an existing one (whether it’s occupied or not). So, if you have an abandoned nest hanging in a tree or stuck to the eaves of your house, let it be. Its presence may prevent a new colony from setting up house nearby. In fact, you can purchase fake nests (like this one or this one) to hang in a shed or porch to prevent hornets or other paper wasps from moving in.
  • In general, yellow jackets and hornets are considered to be very beneficial to the garden. Adults consume nectar, and they collect both live and dead insects to feed to their developing young. The yellow jacket in the featured picture is dissecting a cabbageworm and carrying the pieces back to the nest. Paper wasps are important members of nature’s clean-up crew.

What to do about paper wasps:

The next time you encounter a nest, try to avoid destroying it, if at all possible. Cordon off the area to prevent human contact, giving the insects a wide berth to move in and out of the nest. Remember, all but the queen will die as soon as winter arrives and the nest will be abandoned. If it is not possible for you to avoid the area until freezing weather arrives, have a professional remove the nest. Some species of paper wasps release an “attack pheromone” when the nest is threatened. This can lead to a mass attack on the intruder, causing multiple, painful stings.

Closely resembling yellow jackets, paper wasps are long and narrow with alternating yellow (or sometimes brownish) and black stripes.  Their nests are often shaped like an inverse umbrella or tear drop and feature a distinct honeycomb pattern.  Paper wasps construct their homes out of wood pulp that has been chewed into a paste, and they prefer to build on tree branches or in the eaves of buildings.  If you spot heavy wasp traffic in a specific area and find a nest, do not attempt to remove it.  Paper wasps are aggressive and will defend their territory if threatened.

When to remove a paper wasp nest

Paper wasp nest removal should happen before the nest reaches the size of a quarter.  At this stage, the queen has not yet laid her eggs, and you will be less likely to provoke an attack.  If you’re in a situation where you must remove a nest yourself, take great care.  Nests are best dealt with at night when it is cooler and the wasps are dormant.

Should I get rid of paper wasps?

When NOT to remove a paper wasp nest

Wasps are a key component in controlling mosquitoes, caterpillars, and other pest insect species.  If the wasp nest on your property is in an area that sees little foot traffic, like in the high branches of a tree, it should be left alone.  That colony may be the reason you’re able to sit on your porch without incurring bug bites.

However, should you find an active nest larger than a coin in an area frequented by people, call an ABC Wildlife expert rather than attempting to handle the situation yourself.  Our professional paper wasp nest removal experts are equipped to handle stinging insects in a safe and effective manner, and they are also able to treat your home to prevent future nesting.  Our stinging insect preventative maintenance program keeps bees, wasps, and hornets from forming nests on your home.  We even guarantee that our treatments will keep stinging insects away until spring of the following year.

There is no need to fear wasps.  As long as you avoid their home and don’t threaten their habitat, they will leave you alone.  Just be mindful of the correct and incorrect ways to deal with a nest, and don’t be afraid to ask an ABC Wildlife professional for help with your paper wasp nest removal.  Call (847) 870-7175 for a consultation today!

Are paper wasps good to have around?

Remember, paper wasps are actually beneficial insects because they prey on other insects that we consider pests of the shrubs and flowers around our homes. If a nest is located where it is out of the way and not likely to be disturbed, homeowners should consider leaving it alone.

Why are there so many paper wasps around my house?

Generally, wasps get in through openings that lead inside our homes and commercial buildings. Therefore, effectively sealing openings that may lead into a home is critical for wasp prevention. In addition, sealing access points inside your home will help prevent problems from many other pest insects and spiders.

What time of year are paper wasps most active?

Paper Wasps and other stinging insects are most active from July through the late summer months of August and September as long as the weather is warm. Wasps are generally more active in the middle of the day when it's warm, and less active between dusk and dawn when temperatures are cooler.

Do paper wasps go away in winter?

Most paper wasps die in autumn or winter, while some hibernate to start new nests next season. Paper wasps have some beneficial value as predators of pest caterpillars, however they have a painful sting and will attack any person approaching or disturbing their nest.