Wasps Indoors in Winter! What Gives?

Q. I found a wasp in an upstairs bedroom yesterday, flying around indoors in the middle of winter! It was mostly black with some yellow stripes and long legs. I thought it was a one time thing but today I found another one in a bathroom window. What’s going on? Do they have a nest inside?

A. No nest, you just have some temporary winter guests. At least you’re entertaining royalty! These are no doubt future paper wasp queens. Other wasps sometimes spend the winter indoors, but paper wasps are notorious for ending up inside. They’re the wasps that make those open-comb nests outside that look like an upside-down umbrella. In fact, they’re sometimes called umbrella wasps.

Paper WaspIn late summer or early fall, the paper wasps in a nest begin to die except for newly mated females who are destined to be next year’s queens. When the weather cools, their internal clock tells these future queens that it’s time to find a protected place to wait out the winter. Usually that’s outside under bark, or logs, or even under siding or shingles. But if they can find an opening into a nice, warm attic, they’ll take it!

Most people don’t even notice the gradual migration of the wasps inside (although sometimes you see them hanging around outside looking longingly at your doors and windows!). Because paper wasps fly, they are able to enter through openings near the roof line and often end up in attics. They also hide in wall voids, behind baseboards, behind draperies, under carpet edges, and in various cracks and crevices.

Paper wasps don’t move around much once they’ve settled in and you usually won’t even know they’re there – until the first warm days of spring or (as you’ve discovered!), sometimes during a warm spell in the winter. Then the wasps become active again and start looking for a way to get back outside. They’re attracted to light at windows. They are usually sluggish as they crawl and fly about inside and can be easily caught, or squashed, or vacuumed. They’re not aggressive but remember that they are still capable of stinging if handled!

If you have a large population of overwintering wasps in an attic or in wall or ceiling voids, you may need to have a professional treat those areas. Next year, consider an outside preventive treatment in early fall to help keep them from moving in. Also caulk or seal openings around roof eaves, utility line entrances, or other sites where wasps may be entering your home.

For more on paper wasps, look under Bees and Wasps in our website’s Pest Library.


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    1. I have a brown and yellow wasp in a big jar. I found her on my back porch a month ago, yes, in January. I have been feeding her humming bird food and such. On a warm day a week ago I let her go and she came back that night so i put her back in the jar with some humming bird food again. Will she live until spring and then be able to finish her life cycle?

      I hope so because she is not like the black and yellow wasps. She is sweet.

    2. This is happening to me at the moment! I was worried it might be more dangerous or there might be a nest. I’ve just been trying to kill the ones I see. Will they move out in the summer though? Should I try to kill all of them before the winter ends?

    3. Michelle says:

      Thank you for this blog post it was very helpful. I recently noticed a burning smell in my living room. On inspection I found a huge dead wasp under a light fixture and was really freaked out thinking there must be a nest in my home.

    4. Thank you for posting this blog. I have found approximately nine in my living room this month. I just bought the home and have a small grandchild who stays with me a lot. I still plan to check the attic just to be sure. Judging by your post it sounds like its my situation. They do act sluggish and I always find them around the living room window. Just not sure how they are getting in.

      • Colonial Pest Consultant says:

        Wasps usually enter in fall through tiny openings around the roofline that are hard to find. It’s also very possible that there was a nest last summer inside your attic and these wasps are just working their way down into the house. Unfortunately, finding them by a window doesn’t help much with tracking where they came from since they will head to the brightest light in the house, thinking they can get outside. Checking the attic is a good idea and an exterminator could treat that space to kill other overwintering wasps.

    5. I have seen 4 of theses wasps…it is the beginning of February and they are in my house!
      I woke up at 4am and had gotten stung. When we went to look for it…couldn’t find it till i looked up. My lights were off well till i got stung!! We never had bees in our house n im thinking they are in my boxspring or in my walls!!
      Now im freaked out n won’t sleep in my room!! So how do i get rid of them since im getting stung?!

    6. HI there, thanks for this post. I know most people want to kill wasps but I have had a tiny paper wasp hanging out in my house. According to you SHE may be royalty so I want to keep her until spring and let her go. I tried to let her go on a plant outside but she keeps landing on me and hanging out. It is the weirdest thing but she will not leave me alone. She is not aggressive she just seems to want to sleep on me. So I found an abandoned paper nest and hot glued it to the lid of a jar, put her in it and she took no time at all to go inside a tunnel!! She is adorable. If I put a chunk of canned cat food in there will that be enough for her? will she survive? what else should I do to keep her alive?

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