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Red Paper Wasps: Should You Be Worried?

red paper wasp

It’s a hot summer day and you walk outside your front door, greeted by a familiar buzzing sound; only, it’s not a bee. It’s another scary looking creature—a red paper wasp. You know it stings and you know where there is one wasp, a nest isn’t too far away. But what brought it to your doorstep? How can you get rid of it? And most importantly, how can you keep these pests from coming back and making your home their own?

The first step in understanding how to deal with any type of unwanted pest is to learn more about it. Once you know how to identify red wasps and what attracts them, you’ll be better equipped to get rid of them—for good.

Red Paper Wasp Facts

The scientific name for a red wasp is Polistes carolina. These insects are found mostly in the eastern and south-central parts of the United States and are characterized by their reddish-brown color. Red wasps have slim-waisted bodies, black wings that fold back when at rest and can be anywhere from ¾ to one inch in length.

Red wasps are often called paper wasps because of the paper-like nests they build, usually around the crevices or entryways of houses.

Red Wasp Life Cycle

Red paper wasps are semi-social insects made up of colonies of workers, queens and males. In the springtime, queens select a nesting site and begin to build their paper-like nests from wood tissue and saliva, pressing the materials with their mandibles into thin, delicate layers resembling paper that form the nest and comb of hexagonal brood cells. Eggs are laid individually in each cell and hatch into grub-like larvae that go through several stages of development before fully pupating. Sterile worker bees feed the young and protect the nest, since the cells of the nest remain open as the larvae pupates.

A fully mature nest can contain as many as 20 to 30 adult wasps during the summer months. Once fall approaches, the queen stops laying eggs and the colony begins to decline. Mated females seek protection in crevices to overwinter and build their own nests the following spring while the rest of the colony dies as the weather gets colder. The average lifecycle of a paper wasp is not even a year, lasting from the late-spring into the fall. 

Diet And Habitat

During the day, paper wasps are actively foraging for food. At night, these insects rest together with the colony. Since they have to create their nest out of wood fibers, paper wasps have chewing mouthparts they use to collect materials for the nest as well as to prey on insects, including caterpillars, flies and cicadas. Paper wasps will also seek out larvae from other insects to feed to their own larvae.

In addition to feeding on prey, red wasps also feed on plant nectar, which is why you’ll sometimes find them in your garden, especially if you have a bed of goldenrod flowers. 

Paper wasps can take up residence around your home in a variety of places. They hang their nests from branches of trees, in shrubs, along eaves, on tops of windows and doorframes, underneath deck floors or even on railings around your deck. When it’s peak wasp season, be sure to inspect your outdoor spaces thoroughly to check for any paper wasps that may have built nests.

Beware of Wasp Stings

Red wasps aren’t known to be aggressive, but they will sting if they feel threatened or if you threaten their nest. Since wasps are protecting the larvae from potential predators, you could be seen as a threat if you come too close to the nest.

Wasp stings are relatively common and are quite painful. Unlike other stinging insects, wasps can sting you multiple times. Red wasps pose the same risk of allergic reaction as other stinging insects, but other than that, you’ll feel pain and swelling localized to the area of the sting.

Prevention Tips

Red wasps build their paper-like nests around residential yards, which is why it’s important to inspect your property for signs of activity. If you do find a nest around your home, your best bet is to try to remove the nest at night, when the wasps are sleeping. To prevent red wasps from hanging around on your property, take the following steps:

  • Trim shrubs and hedges around your yard regularly. Once you have checked to make sure there isn’t an existing nest, trimming back foliage will keep them from having a place to build.
  • Treat your deck with an oil repellent to deter wasps from gathering the wooden fibers needed to build their nest.
  • Use an insecticide for wasps and hornets. Be sure to follow the label instructions and spray at night when paper wasps are inactive.

ABC Can Help You Get Rid of Biting Insects

Dealing with red wasps can be scary. The thought of getting stung is enough to make most homeowners call in the professionals. The experts at ABC Home & Commercial Services will set up a time to inspect your home, assess your wasp problem and get rid of your existing colonies for good. With ABC’s pest control professionals, you won’t have to worry about getting stung when you are out, enjoying your outdoor spaces.

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