Having survived the winter in protected sites, fertile female paper wasps are beginning to construct their familiar open-faced nests. Eaves and other protected sites on and around structures provide ideal sites, and the resources they need are often nearby (Figures 1 & 2).
European paper wasp, which closely resembles a yellowjacket (Figure 3), is a relatively new arrival to Kentucky. It has the long dangling legs of a paper wasp and a slimmer body than the ground-nesting yellowjacket. The European paper wasp (EPW) appears to attack those who venture near its nest more readily than the other species. EPW builds the characteristic open-faced nest but prefers to locate in a protected void (Figure 4) instead of a more open site.
The three species of paper wasps capture insects and chew them into “bug burgers” to feed their larvae (Figure 5). Common and red paper wasps prefer to hunt and capture caterpillars, while the European paper wasp uses a variety of insects.
Watch now for nest construction (Figure 6) in or near doorways, mailboxes, or other places that could lead to contact with people. It will be easy to deal with the situation now when only the queen is present. Use a swatter or wasp and hornet spray, ideally when the founding wasp is present. Remove the nest completely so it will not attract another resident. Nest establishment can continue through May.
(* with apologies to P. F. Sloan & Barry McGuire)
By Lee Townsend, Extension Entomologist