Paper wasp adult

Paper wasp
Russ Ottens, University of Georgia, Bugwood.org

Updated: May 4, 2021

Key Points

  • A very common wasp found in Maryland. Often confused with a yellowjacket. However, 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 nest
Paper wasps on a nest
Photo: Joseph Berger, Bugwood.org

Management

  • 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 and then it can be removed.   
  • 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 difficulty accessing 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 the early morning so there is some natural light making it easier to see the nest and when most of the wasps are on the nest.

 Rev. 2020