University of Maryland Extension

Paper Wasps

paper wasp on leaf
Paper wasp
Photo: Russ Ottens, University of Georgia,

Key Points

  • A very common wasp found in Maryland. Often confused with a yellowjacket. Paper wasps are slower fliers.
  • Paper wasps are about 5/8 to 3/4 of an inch long, brownish with yellow or reddish markings. Their legs are long and thin. 
  • Nests are made of paper and resemble an umbrella in shape. The cells are in a single layer and open downward. The nest may be attached to a twig, branch, door frame, eaves, or almost any protected place. The nests are usually fairly small, only a few inches in diameter.
  • Paper wasps are beneficial and feed on a variety of insects including caterpillars. 

paper wasp on nest
Paper wasps on nest
Photo: Joseph Berger,


  • A nest located in a low-traffic area that won't be encountered by people or pets can be left alone. After a hard frost, the inhabitants of the nest will die.

  • Pest control operators have the ability to safely and effectively control a nest. Call a pest control company if you do not want to attempt to control the nest yourself, have an allergy or sensitivity to stings, or there is difficult access to the nest. These wasps are only aggressive when defending their nest.

  • Aerosol wasp and hornet sprays can be effective in controlling a nest. Some formulations can injure plants or damage painted surfaces so read and follow the label directions. Control should be done in the evening or in early morning so there is some natural light and when most of the wasps are on the nest.

 Rev. 2020

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