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Paper Wasp

Polistes species


Paper wasp are about 1 inch long. They have a slender body with a very narrow waist. The body is reddish brown with black and yellow bands. The wings are also reddish brown. Females build a globular hanging nest made of gray or brown papery material. They gather fibers from dead wood and plant stems and mix it with saliva to construct a water-resistant nest. They also secrete a chemical which repels ants around the base of the nest anchor to protect their eggs and brood. Paper wasp are considered social wasps. Research has discovered they have face recognition abilities similar to humans. They can recognize individual wasp in their colony. Scientist think this benefits the colony by enabling them to remember a social hierarchy that helps maintains peace in the nest. Paper wasp are territorial. They have a painful sting but are not very aggressive unless they feel threatened. Paper wasps feed on nectar and insects like caterpillars, flies, and beetle larvae. They are considered beneficial to gardeners.


Paper wasp build nest under overhangs, in pipe openings and along tree branches. There are about 22 species in North America.


These paper wasp have built their nest in a small bald cypress tree beside a pond and next to a very popular deck for viewing wildlife. I stood under the tree and extended my camera at arm's reach to within 12-14 inches of the nest without the paper wasp leaving their nest to attack. As I drew closer, more of them gathered on the side of the nest facing me and I quickly backed off.

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Karen Hileman
Karen Hileman 11 years ago

Oh my, dragonflynse, you must have been a fun child if you liked to pick up pretty insects. That's a cute story. How long will the wasp stay with the same nest or nesting site?

dragonflynse 11 years ago

Your observation of their behavior is typical. I've only been stung by a paper wasp once- I was 4 years old, and picked up a "pretty" insect in my hiding place. It did not appreciate my curiosity, and stung me on the palm of my hand! Imagine that! Lol.

They are among the most easily "lived with" colonial wasp species, as they quickly get accustomed to regular , non- threatening human activity . I had an active nest above my front door for years. No one was ever stung, and my tomatoes were kept clear of those hornworms ! Gotta love wasps!

Karen Hileman
Karen Hileman 11 years ago

Thanks. I will try to post more pictures of the nest later on to see how it changes and develops.

MrsPbio 11 years ago

Lovely! These wasps have a very fascinating lifestyle.

Ava T-B
Ava T-B 11 years ago

Please consider adding this spotting to the Animal Architecture mission at

Karen Hileman
Spotted by
Karen Hileman

Cocoa, Florida, USA

Spotted on Aug 20, 2012
Submitted on Aug 20, 2012

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