How to Get Rid of Paper Wasps

A solitary paper wasp on a small hanging nest of open-cell paper comb.

Silvan Bachmann

Paper wasps are a type of wasp that is commonly found in North America. Their name comes from the fact that they build their nests out of paper they make using wood fibers.

Paper wasps are not considered dangerous, and treatment can easily be handled by a homeowner or resident that has the proper tools and equipment, but self-treatment does come with some risks. If you want the lowest-risk solution for paper wasps, hiring a professional would be best.

While paper wasps are not typically aggressive, they can sting if they feel threatened, and their sting can cause severe reactions in sensitive individuals.

Warning

Wasp stings can cause a variety of health concerns. For individuals who are allergic or sensitive to insect stings, these health concerns range from anaphylactic shock to death in severe cases. Rarely, some individuals experience long-term neurological complications after wasp stings, even if they have no history of allergies to stings.

What Do Paper Wasps Look Like?

Paper wasps are commonly found in outdoor areas such as gardens or parks, where you may recognize them by the following features:

  • Primary coloring is brown or black
  • Yellow markings
  • A Narrow (but not spindly) waist
  • Length of 6-12mm
  • Legs that dangle or hang down during flight

Paper wasps can be difficult to identify. They are easily and regularly confused with other (more dangerous) pests, especially yellow jackets and hornets.

Paper wasps are most easily identified by the nests they construct. Paper wasps make open-combed paper nests as opposed to nests that look like a large, closed ball. You can see the exposed cells of their nests (which looks like honeycomb) and you can sometimes see wasps and their larvae inside the cells of the hive.

Bald-faced hornets and yellow jackets both build closed paper nests. Both of these pests can be very aggressive, so they must be handled with great caution and proper skill and equipment. Bald-faced hornet nests are more pointed near the bottom, whereas yellow jacket nests are have a more rounded shape. Bald-faced hornets most frequently nest in shrubs or trees, where yellow jackets can be found in attics, ground nests, and other locations.

A small, open-faced paper wasp nest attached to an outdoor porch light.
An open-faced paper wasp nest attached to an outdoor light fixture.

Kbytes/iStock/GettyImages

An egg-shaped bald faced hornets nest constructed around the branches of a tree
A pointed paper nest built by bald-faced hornets

McBenjamen

A rounded, closed yellow jacket nest constructed around a large electrical cord in an attic or shed.
A rounded yellow jacket nest that has been built around a coated cable

SKatzenberger

3 Ways to Get Rid of Paper Wasps

You can't effectively perform control for paper wasps if you cannot see their open-combed nest. Look for these white colored paper nests hanging under the eaves (on the under side of the roofline) or on the side of your home.

Warning

While paper wasps are less aggressive than other stinging pests, they still sting. If you are trying to perform DIY pest control, this is something you need to keep in mind. If you are concerned about stings, afraid of bees and wasps, or if someone in your direct area is allergic to stings at all, it would be best to hire a professional.

If you live in the northern hemisphere, paper wasps and other stinging insects may be especially drawn to starting nests on the south side of your home, as this area will get the most warmth in the afternoon sun.

Once you have located a paper wasp nest, you have a few options when it comes to methods of control: physical removal, chemical treatment, or to hire a professional. If you're having trouble identifying whether the wasp nest on your property belongs to paper wasps or another pest, don't be afraid to snap a picture and reach out to a pest control company. Many companies will let you email a picture in and help identify it for you that way. With stinging insects, it's always better to be safe than sorry.

DIY Chemical Treatment

Luckily, because paper wasps are not very aggressive and their nests are open faced and mostly small, they can easily be treated with an over the counter chemical spray application. These products come in a can and can be purchased pretty much anywhere. Just be sure to make sure to follow all label instructions meticulously to avoid any health or environmental risks.

These over-the-counter wasp treatments only work well in a situation where you are actually dealing with an open-combed paper wasp nest. Wasp sprays available for homeowner purchase are contact insecticides and need to be directly sprayed onto the queen in order to kill her and stop the lifecycle of the nest you're seeing.

It can be dangerous to attempt DIY wasp treatments when the nest belongs to a more aggressive species, so make totally sure that it's paper wasps you're dealing with, and not something else like yellow jackets or bald faced hornets. A good rule of thumb? If the nest is a closed ball of paper and you can't see the comb inside, call a professional! Otherwise, you likely won't kill the nest and your chances of getting stung or swarmed go up significantly.

Physical Removal

If you know your home is prone to paper wasp nests, physical removal can be a great way to keep wasp activity at bay and avoid chemical application altogether. The importance is making sure that what you're seeing are paper wasps and not something else.

Paper wasp nests are very delicate and easy to remove by disruption or scraping. The first question: is the nest active? You're looking for visual confirmation of wasps inside, on, or coming and going from the nest. If the nest is just there with no wasps present, the nest is dead and you can remove it with no issue, but remember that we are talking about open-faced paper wasp nests, not the closed paper nests that could belong to yellow jackets or bald faced hornets. If you attempt these methods with the wrong type of nest,

When warm weather arrives, keep an eye on the eaves of your home. Paper wasp nests start small, and while they don't get too big, they will be easiest to remove (and contain less wasps) the earlier you catch them.

Depending on the circumstances, you may need:

  1. A broom or pole
  2. A hose or pressure washer
  3. A ladder

Many paper wasp nests can simply be knocked loose, but when they are high up or a little larger in size, this can take more effort. Paper wasp nests can be scraped (or hosed) free, but will often leave residual paper behind. In this situation, be sure to

If the nest is active and you want to make sure the queen can't restart a new nest, it is best to give it a good stomp once it hits the ground. This will ensure that the wasps inside (including the egg-laying queen) are dead.

Tip

After any type of removal involving active wasps, bees or hornets, you will likely see some flying insect activity around the nest location for a few days after it's gone. When an active nest is removed, there are often foragers out when the removal occurs. These foragers will return to the site of their nest to find it is no longer there. The pests will often move on, but it might take a little bit of time.

Hire a Professional

Maybe you're not sure if the nest you're seeing belongs to paper wasps, or maybe you're not comfortable with performing treatment yourself. Either way, that's ok!

Contact a professional pest control company to treat the nest for you. Make sure the company is reliable, and preferably local to your area. They will come prepared with all the equipment, gear and protective clothing needed to get the job done safely and effectively.

In most cases, expect that treatment will involve application of some type of insecticide. The pest control company may not be able to physically remove the wasp nest when they treat, especially if it isn't paper wasps. Homeowners can scrape free and remove the nest once it is completely dead. Any stubborn bits of paper left behind may require some more thorough cleaning.

Signs of Paper Wasps

Paper wasps get their common name from the paper-like material they use to build their nests. The wasps make this material by chewing bits of plant and wood fibers.

There are many species of paper wasps, but they all share some common characteristics that can help you identify a paper wasp issue early on.

If you have sweet foods out during a family barbecue and you notice a wasp flying around, it very well could be a paper wasp, but it might also be something else. Like yellow jackets and other stinging pests, paper wasps are black and yellow. Seeing paper wasps around outside can be an indication of a paper wasp nest nearby, but the nest may not be on your property.

The tell-tale sign of a paper wasp nest is visually spotting their open-combed paper nest. These nests are most likely to pop up on the warm underside of your eaves where the delicate nest is easily accessed but protected from wind and rain.

Tip

If you're concerned there might be an active wasp nest on your property but you aren't sure, keep an eye on the area you're watching and look for a distinct flight path.

What is a Distinct Flight Path?

Many people confuse the term 'distinct flight path' with foraging behavior when it comes to wasps, so it's important to know the difference. A distinct flight path involves wasps, hornets or bees consistently coming and going from one specific spot (the entrance to their nest). This is not the same as wasps or bees foraging on or around plants. In the case of paper wasps, this flight direct path will likely be coming and going under the eaves of your roof, the underside of a covered porch.

What Causes Paper Wasps?

If paper wasps are popping up around your property, there are a few potential causes.

  • First, paper wasps are attracted to areas with standing water. If you have a birdbath, kiddie pool, pond, or another water source outside, you could be attracting paper wasps to your home. Even a leaky hose can provide pests with water, so don't forget to consider every possibility if you're serious about keeping paper wasps away.
  • Second, paper wasps are attracted to sweet smells. If you have flowers or fruit trees, or if you're noticing them swooping around the dessert table at your summer BBQ, these items are likely drawing paper wasps in.
  • Finally, paper wasps build their nests in protected areas such as eaves and overhangs. If you have eaves, paper wasps could become an issue in warmer months.

Tip

Do you have aluminum siding or an aluminum roof? Paper wasps can be especially attracted to these homes because of the warmth the aluminum provides when the sun heats it. If your home is constructed using aluminum, keep your eyes open for paper wasp nests popping up in the spring and summer.

How to Keep Paper Wasps Away

Given that paper wasps are (mostly) not aggressive and help with pollination and breakdown of organic matter, they do provide some benefit to the eco-system.

The best rule of thumb if you're concerned about wasps? Give them some space and observe them. Where are they coming from? Where are you finding them? What is attracting them to that spot? If their presence is bothering you, you may want to consider removing plants or water sources that are attracting them.

Removal of nests around your own home is a great way to help reduce the surrounding population of wasps and stinging insects, so check your eaves and roofline from time to time for any distinct flight paths. Keep in mind that other stinging insects nest around roofs, so unless you can see the open-faced paper nest, don't assume you're dealing with paper wasps. It could be a more aggressive pest.

Article Sources
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  1. “Paper Wasp.” TAMU Extension Entomology,