Paper Wasp

Actual Size: 0.75 to 1.25”

Characteristics: Black abdomen, mahogany body with distinct yellow ring, black wings. Thinner waist than yellowjackets.

Legs: 6

Antennae: Yes

Habitat: Umbrella-shaped, paper-like nests that often hang from twigs and branches, porch ceilings, and more.


  • Can be aggressive and may sting when threatened
  • Eat nectar, caterpillars, and flies
  • Queen paper wasps can sometimes make their way indoors during the winter until springtime

Paper Wasps in Iowa

Paper wasps are one of the most common types of wasps nationwide. There are more than 22 species in the U.S., and they are commonly mistaken for yellowjackets. The biggest difference is their appearance: paper wasps are often darkser mahogany or brown in color with yellow markings. They also have a thinner waist. They are named as such because of the unique papery nests they construct. As with any social wasp, paper wasps may sting when they feel threatened. These wasps feed on spiders, nectar, and other types of insects.

Paper Wasp Habitat

True to name, paper wasp nests are known to 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. If you notice a paper wasp nest near your Des Moiones property, never approach it in case of stinging insects inside.

Paper Wasp Behavior & Threats

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. However, they can be a bit of a nuisance in residential areas. 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, which is why you should leave it up to a licensed wasp removal specialist to control paper wasp infestations in or near your home.