Paper Wasp


Actual Size: 0.75 to 1.25”

Characteristics: Black abdomen, mahogany body with distinct yellow ring, black wings

Legs: 6

Antennae: Yes

Habitat: Build umbrella-shaped, paper-like nests in residential yards. Nests often hang from twigs and branches, porch ceilings, and more.


  • Moderately aggressive wasps that can sting repeatedly
  • Eat nectar and other insects, including flies and caterpillars
  • Are often confused for yellowjackets

Paper Wasps in The North Bay and East Bay Area

Paper wasps are very common across the nation. There are more than 22 species, and they are commonly mistaken for yellowjackets. However, these wasps tend to have a thinner waist than yellowjackets, and are often darker in color or even mahogany in color. They are best identified, however, by their unique nests that are umbrella-shaped and hang downward. They often look like an upside-down paper cone and typically hang from a horizontal surface in a shaded, protected location. Like other types of wasps, paper wasps feed on insects, spiders, and the like. And, just like other social wasps, paper wasps can become aggressive and sting repeatedly.

Paper Wasp Habitat

Paper wasp nests look like upside-down umbrellas and have a papier-mȃché feel to them. Unlike yellow jackets, paper wasp nests are somewhat open and not completely covered. Nests can most often be found either on tree branches or under eaves, attic rafters, and porch ceilings. Because nests can be built directly on a home, these wasps have been known to make their way indoors through holes in attic vent screens or underneath shingles. Even if a nest appears to be empty, never approach one–there could be lingering stinging insects inside.

Paper Wasp Behaviors — Threats — Dangers

Similarly to mud daubers, paper wasps are considered to be beneficial to the environment for keeping the insect population under control. They also assist in pollination by feeding on nectar. Paper wasps are considered aggressive and have been known to sting repeatedly when threatened. For this reason, it’s important to never disturb their nest. Stings can be extremely painful–always consult a medical professional.

If you notice paper wasp nests in or near your Bay Area home, it’s best to call your licensed wasp control experts.