Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Living With Beneficial Paper Wasps

by Donna L. Watkins

You will probably know this wasp by its nest. This nest, currently to the right of our front door, was in its beginning stages in early June with two mated females (queens) building cells and laying their eggs. It's doubled in size but the wrens prey upon Paper Wasp nests since the larvae are good food for their babies.

Paper Wasps don't make a huge colony like Yellow Jackets whose colony's can grow to thousands by Fall. Paper Wasps are also not aggressive like Yellow Jackets. We've had them building outside our doors that have a covered porch area for 17 years and have never had a problem.

Last year they began a nest at the top of the front door frame against the door, so when we opened the door, and one of the females flew into the house while the others scattered and flew about. Randal rescued the wasp indoors, while I removed the nest and placed it a couple feet away on the base of our porch light. Super glue did a great job of keeping it there. They don't reuse their nests, so we took it down in the late Fall.

I had to giggle thinking about them returning to see the nest in a different place, but with all babies okay. My mind imagined all kinds of silly conversations they had about it. I sat on the porch bench and watched as they returned and scurried all around where it was, and then after finding it, they did a thorough inspection to find that all was well. They kept adding on cells to deposit eggs and all of us lived in happy co-existence.

Although they make many people nervous with the thought of stings, Paper Wasps are considered beneficial to agriculture, since they feed abundantly on corn earworms, armyworms, tobacco hornworms, harmful caterpillars, etc.

In the household garden, they are great pollinators as they gather nectar for their own food, and gather insects to chew up and feed to the larvae (their young). If you look closely at the second photo, you'll notice the top queen has a green globule in it's mouth ready to feed.

By the way, we've also left hornets nests under the eaves of our roof also to enjoy their benefits in our garden. They never reuse their nests, so it can be power washed down in late Fall or if it's in an area that's accessible, the nest is a keepsake. It's incredible the design they make by chewing up wood and spitting it out.

Animals all need protein and wasps obtain protein by eating other insects. Hornets, for example, feed upon flies and other flying insects. Paper wasps generally eat caterpillars. A few common pest caterpillars listed in the literature are cabbage butterfly, Fall webworm and several oakworm species.

Some colonies have been reported to prey upon 2000 caterpillars. Tests have shown that enhancing Paper Wasp populations in tobacco fields reduced caterpillar populations in the crop. Thus, wasps can be real biological control for the landscape and garden. Wasps, in general, are helpful in the landscape, and Paper Wasps are one of the easiest types to manage. All one needs to do is provide nest sites.

The key is to encourage the wasps to build nests where YOU want them and away from places they might be a hazard. A simple box can be a four-sided construction and placed 4-6 feet above the ground for easy observation. An old birdhouse with the bottom removed makes a fine structure. Here's a site with more details on this and a photo of one you might construct:

The European Paper Wasp, unlike our native Common Paper Wasp, also sometimes uses bird boxes, but is bad news. The European prefers to nest in cavities and it attacks people with much less provocation than the native Paper Wasp. It's becoming a threat to cavity-nesting birds. Get more information on the invading European Paper Wasp here:

The benefit of getting macro photos is that when you enlarge them even further, you get a microscopic kind of look at things. I was able to get within two inches of our current resident Paper Wasps' nest for photos.

When I downloaded them, I was very excited to see their little "babies" that are inside each cell. The body is a light beige color with the face or maybe head being the round brown part.

I hope this information will help you to enjoy something that we have been taught to fear.

Related Posts:
Plants That Deter Bees and Wasps
Non-Toxic Pesticide Solutions For The Garden


Gayla said...

I stumbled on your blog and I'm so glad I did! I absolutely love it :) You provide so much information and it's obvious the time, research and informative entries your write help us all---myself included.

I found you on Google as I had a wasp or a big bee fly into my house about 30 minutes ago. It's been an hour and I can't find it! I'll have to admit that I am terrified of bees and wasps, but no better to NOT flail my arms around or provoke these insects in anyway. All I know is that what flew into my house was big and I didn't have time to positively identify it as a bee or wasp. I think it could be a wasp as it's very cloudy here today, windy and the temps are cooler than normal. I've also noticed that the bee/wasp activity around our back sliding door has increased over the last several weeks so there must be a nest somewhere. We do have a lot of trees.

I was researching what I can do to find it inside my house. Our house is small, but clean. I don't want to kill it, I want to get it back outside. They are very beneficial to our environment and even though I'm afraid for me and my dogs, I sitll do NOT want to kill it, just get it out of here! LOL I've scoped around our property for a wasp or bee nest but had no luck. Maybe one of neighbors (I have 2 that live within a few hundred feet). Any suggestions on finding this in my house? I'm so scared. I have 2 Rottweilers who are the love of my life and I'm terrified they are going to get stung.

I live in Las Vegas, a part of Las Vegas that is "very country". I'm surrounded by horse properties, people with 4 and 5 acres of land (which is so rare here..ha ha)We have 2 acres.

I'm so sorry to bother you on Sunday, but any help you can offer would he fantastic. And you have gained a reader and big fan!

Thank you so very much.

Here is my "new" Blogger blog if you would ever like to visit: http://unfussy.blogspot.com/
It's a work in progress as I journaled/blogged on AOL for 5 years and they did away with journal on Oct. 31st. So we all migrated to Blogger, and I'm happy we did!

Have a great Sunday,
Gayla (VegasGal)
Las Vegas, NV

sharingsunshine said...

Hi Gayla!

First of all, consider how many dogs are outside year round with all kinds of bees and wasps and never get stung. :-)

I understand how fear grabs you and takes over though. I would think that you shouldn't have to look for the insect. You should see it flying around. Actually without nectar it will not last long, so it would die from dehydration. You may not need to worry about getting it out.

I wouldn't wear any perfume that might smell like flowers.

As to where to find the nest, it would depend on the type of bee or wasp it is. They nest differently.

I am glad you found my website and am very happy to have a new friend online. Didn't know about AOL's conversion either. Interesting.

I like your website, especially the tribute to Paul Newman. I was also sad at his passing, but what a legacy he left!

Adelheidi said...

How do I tell the difference between the native paper wasp and the European paper wasp?

sharingsunshine said...

There's good info at Cornell's website with photos of the European paper wasp. There is a lot of difference between the two.


The article mentions the species name: Polistes dominulus, and explains that the species arrived from Europe about 20 years ago and settled in Massachusetts. From there, the insects moved through New York sometime during the past decade and have spread to the Midwest.

Ferocious hunters, paper wasps feast on caterpillars, so if they're a problem in your yard and garden .... be kind to the paper wasps and they'll feed themselves and bless you at the same time.

Dan said...


I'm looking for days on the net for a solution to my wasp plague but except a lot of info,I had found nothing really useful.I run a small rural hotel in Andalusia,Spain and I'm full with wasps.I can't find all the nests so I'm looking for a plant that I can put in the gardens in order to make them move.There should be something the wasps don't like but I can't find it.Should you know anything,I'd be really grateful.
What I can say is that I walk all they long among them and they don't really bother me.I got stung twice but 5 min. later I can't even see where anymore.Only for the guests is a different story,especially when there are kids involved.
Thanks in advance
Dan Balteanu

sharingsunshine said...

Hi Dan,

I found a site that has numerous articles on this type of question with a lot of people input in a forum type style and also some Q&A. This link will actually take you to the search for the word "wasp."

I did see that there were some essential oils used (avoid pennyroyal!), which may be an idea. You could have an essential oil spray available for people who want to walk in the gardens.

Our pollinators are important to the world right now, so we really want to find ways to live with them and teach others how to do the same.

AskTheExterminator.com replies to a question about plants:

A reader asks:

What plants, bushes or trees deter bees and wasps?

The Exterminator replies:

There are loads of articles with recommendations on how to control various kinds of insects in gardens. However, very little is written on ornamentals that will repel bees and wasps. (Yellow jackets are wasps.)

Yellow jacket nests are often found in the ground. We usually don’t become aware of their presence until late in the year as the adult yellow jackets become more aggressive in their search for food to stockpile their nests.

Natural plant defenses don’t repel bees because bees are necessary for pollination. Wasps are also not repelled because wasps frequently feed on the small insects that otherwise would destroy various plants and flowers.

Herbs are most often mentioned as insect repellents

For example, garlic and chives will repel aphids.

Basil repels flies and mosquitoes.

Marigolds ward off nematodes.

Mint stops ants.

Pennyroyal deters fleas, mosquitoes, ticks and chiggers.

Petunias control leafhoppers, certain aphids and tomato worms.

Rue repels Japanese beetles in roses.

The only plant that is even mentioned as a wasp repellent is Wormwood (Artemisia). When planted as a border Wormwood is said to keep animals and many bugs out of the garden.

Hope that helps a bit. Nice to have reference to the other bug solutions also.

One person mentioned that she sprayed a wasp killer all around a window and all over it and for weeks any fly or bug that landed there would die. Later in the post she mentioned having a 3-year old. It's so scary that people don't think about these chemical killers as affecting humans at all.

sharingsunshine said...

Hey Dan ... and others,

A friend "just happened to" me about a product called a Waspinator which is supposed to repel them. You'll need to read more about it online - it doesn't kill them but keeps them away. Here's the link:


Mentions it's available in Canada and Europe also.

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