Garden Update: #11 – Paper Wasps

This week I had planned to post a final RD recap but then I found this…

paper wasp nest

Nature is so fascinating, I spent almost an hour observing these paper wasps last night.

Paper wasps are 0.7 to 1.0 inch (1.8 to 2.5 cm)-long wasps that gather fibers from dead wood and plant stems, which they mix with saliva, and use to construct water-resistant nests made of gray or brown papery material. Paper wasps are also sometimes called umbrella wasps, due to the distinctive design of their nests

The nests of most true paper wasps are characterized by having open combs with cells for brood rearing, and a ‘petiole’, or constricted stalk, that anchors the nest. Paper wasps secrete a chemical which repels ants, which they spread around the base of the anchor to prevent the loss of eggs or brood.

Nests can be found in sheltered areas, such as the eaves of a house, the branches of a tree, on the end of an open pipe, or on an old clothesline.

Unlike yellowjackets and hornets, which can be very aggressive, polistine paper wasps will generally only attack if they themselves or their nest are threatened. Since their territoriality can lead to attacks on people, and because their stings are quite painful and can produce a potentially fatal anaphylactic reaction in some individuals, nests in human-inhabited areas may present an unacceptable hazard.

Most wasps are beneficial in their natural habitat, and are critically important in natural biocontrol.[4] Paper wasps feed on nectar and other insects, including caterpillars, flies, and beetle larvae. Because they are a known pollinator and feed on known garden pests, paper wasps are often considered to be beneficial by gardeners.

Read more, it’s super interesting.

In past years, we’ve had problems with these wasps. With all the wood from the deck and pallet planters, the RD makes for a perfect habitat. I know that nests multiply fast and the wasps will sting if they feel threatened but I don’t have the heart to destroy this beautiful creation … so I’ll leave it up to Fivey’s Godfather (sorry!), who’ll be taking over our beloved apartment in the next few weeks.


Fiver getting a little too close! The nest is in the upper left.