Paper wasps get their common name from the paper-like material out of which they make their nests. Paper wasps are sometimes called umbrella wasps, after the shape of their distinctive nests. Various species are found throughout the United States.
Paper wasps are semi-social and live in small colonies. They eat nectar and other insects including caterpillars and flies.
Paper wasps hang their comb nests from twigs and branches of trees and shrubs, porch ceilings, the tops of window and door frames, soffits, eaves, attic rafters, deck floor joists and railings, etc. In the autumn, inseminated females will seek places to spend the winter, and may find their way indoors, especially if there is a cathedral ceiling present.
Paper wasps are not an aggressive species by nature, but will sting if they are disturbed or their nest is threatened. Their sting is painful and has the same risk of allergic reaction as with other stinging insects.
Before trimming shrubs or hedges, or picking fruit, check the plant for paper wasp nests. Treat wood fences and deck railings with a repellent oil to deter paper wasps from gathering cellulose from the wood. If you suspect you have a paper wasp infestation or find a nest on your home or property, contact a licensed pest management professional. Do not attempt to remove a nest on your own, as there is a high probability you will get stung.