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Wasps (Social Wasps)
Wasps (Social Wasps)

Wasps (Social Wasps)


  • Color: thorax and abdomen brightly marked with yellow, red, or brown on a black background.
  • Social wasps have typical “wasp” body type, i.e., a short, narrow attachment between the thorax and the abdomen; abdomen is spindle shaped and tipped with a long stinger.
  • Chewing mouthparts, short-elbowed antennae, and large compound eyes.
  • Four wings are clear or smoky brown.
  • Yellow jackets: marked with bright yellow and black patterns and 3/8- to 5/8-inch long.
  • Bald-faced hornet: white and black and 5/8- to 3/4-inch long.
  • Giant European hornet: brown and yellow and 3/4- to 13/8-inch long.
  • Paper wasps: typically marked with yellow, brown, or red patterns on black and 5/8- to 3/4-inch long.

Social Wasp Habits:

  • There are three types of individuals (castes): queens, workers, and males.
  • Males and queens are produced in the colony in late summer.
  • Typically only fertilized queens overwinter in a protected site.
  • In the spring, queens seek an appropriate nesting site where they build a paper nest using chewed wood fibers.
  • Eggs are laid within the cells of the nest and the young larvae are fed bits of chewed meat and insect parts by the queen and later by the workers.
  • Yellow jackets and hornets build flat paper nests in stacks surrounded by a paper envelope.
  • Bald-faced hornets build nests in trees and on the side of buildings.
  • European hornets build nests inside hollow trees and wall voids or underground.
  • Paper wasps build open flat nests without a paper envelope under the eaves of a house or in some other protected location.
  • Social wasps use their nests for only one season.
  • Yellow jackets produce very large colonies with as many as 30,000 workers.
  • Social wasps are considered to be beneficial because they feed their young a wide variety of insects.

Damage From Social Wasps:

  • Aggressively defend their nests by inflicting multiple stings.
  • Can cause death in hypersensitive individuals who go into anaphylactic shock.
  • Nuisance, e.g., when they build nests within or near structures; scavenge for food in recreational areas or other places frequented by humans; or seek overwintering sites within structures.

Look for:

  • The nest by examining all protected areas in the vicinity of wasp activity, e.g., holes in the ground, walls, around pipes, wires and light fixtures, in soffit vents, at roof lines, etc.Social Wasps
  • Yellow jackets nests below ground and in other protected locations.
  • Large paper nests or umbrella nests attached in protected areas.

How to Control and Kill Social Wasps:

  • Protective equipment including a bee hat, long-sleeved shirt, coveralls, eye wear, and gloves should be worn.
  • Removing the nest will not resolve the problem because surviving wasps will reconstruct it.
  •  Careful application of appropriately labeled insecticides is often the best way to kill social wasps. Care must be taken to do this when the most wasps are on the nest and also not to disturb the wasps before treatment. If the nest is in a structure it must be removed to prevent secondary pests that feed on the dead wasps.

Innovative Pest Management serves the Washington, D.C., Northern Virginia, and Maryland area. Call us at (240) 755-0077 to schedule a free quote or appointment.