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Paper Wasps Are Scouting Your Home for Nest Sites!

By Chris Williams on April 8, 2016.

We have these wasps bumbling around outside our house, banging into windows and buzzing around the front porch. They look like paper wasps but we don’t see any nests. Isn’t it kind of early for paper wasps?  T. T., Dracut, MA

They probably are paper wasps and they’ve actually been around all winter, hiding in protected places like your own home. These are fertilized queens that are now emerging from their overwintering sites and are scouting for places to start a nest. If you had paper wasps nesting on and around your home last summer, you will have queens from those nests looking to move back into the old neighborhood.

Paper Wasp Queens Wait Out the Winter

In fall, paper wasps die off except for select wasps that are destined to be next year’s queens. These newly mated females leave the nest and look for protected places to spend the winter, often under bark, logs, or even under siding or shingles. Around homes, they often find their way into attics. They are usually not seen again until spring but sometimes they will emerge from hiding on warm winter days and may find their way into living spaces. When they first “wake up,” paper wasps are sluggish, docile, and move slowly, finding their way to light at windows (see Paper Wasps Inside in Spring?) trying to get outside.

If you’re lucky, you might witness a paper wasp swarm of competing female wasps. In spring, paper wasp females sometimes assemble together in a cluster, the purpose of which is to determine the dominant females that will get to start nests. They aggressively challenge each other with stingers and posturing. Apparently the winners get the best nest sites.

Paper wasps often build new nests in the same general area where they nested the summer before but they don’t re-use last year’s nests. They typically build their umbrella-shaped nests under eaves, on porches, behind shutters, in vents, around window frames, under deck railings, inside barbecue grills, or any place that is shaded and sheltered from weather. The queen starts the nest by herself, adding new cells and laying an egg in each (see Paper Wasps Are Building Their Nests Now). As new worker wasps hatch, they take over the household duties and the queen concentrates on egg laying.

Spring Nest Destruction Means Fewer Wasps Later

As with any wasp, the earlier you can destroy their nest, the better, since nests and the numbers of wasps they contain will continue to grow for the nest few months (see Now is the Time to Block Wasps From Building Nests). It’s pretty easy to knock down a paper wasp nest that is in the early stages with only a few wasps. But the queen is likely to try to rebuild in the same spot.

If you end up with paper wasp nests in places where they interfere with your family’s activities, such as by the front door, give Colonial Pest a call. We can remove the nest and treat the area to discourage any future nest building.

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