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.


  • Female wasps will help each other build nests but only one queen will lay eggs
  • Known as semi-social wasps that live in small colonies without a worker caste
  • Often confused for yellowjackets but have a thinner waist

Paper Wasps in Southern California

Paper wasps are considered to be a more docile social wasp species. They can get aggressive when it comes to defending their nests. These wasps are long-legged and slender-waisted. To the casual observer, they may appear to be black but are most likely golden brown, or darker, with large red or yellow patches. There are more than 22 species of paper wasps in the country. Paper wasps are most easily identified by their nests, which appears like an upside-down paper cone that hangs from a horizontal surface in a shaded, protected location.

Like other types of wasps, paper wasps feed on insects, spiders, etc. For this reason, 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 Wasp Habitat

Paper wasp nests are known to look like upside-down umbrellas and have a paper-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.

Paper Wasp Threats

In most cases, it’s best to avoid bees and wasps entirely, as they are normally not a danger to humans. However, when their nests are in close proximity to us, they are more likely to perceive a threat and defend their nest at all costs. 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. If you do notice a nest forming in or near your property in the Los Angeles Metro Area, always contact your local wasp control experts.