Paper wasps (Polistes sp.) are long-legged, reddish brown to black insects with slender spindle-shaped abdomens. They may have differing degrees of yellowish or brown striping. Paper wasps can become a problem in the fall as the inseminated queens invade homes in search of overwintering sites. But paper wasps can also become a problem in the spring. As temperatures begin to climb, queens that spent the winter in structures become active and fly about. If they have been resting in an attic, wall void or crawlspace, the wasps may be attracted to light coming through a gap in the baseboard or a wall fixture, or around an AC vent and emerge inside the building. Since there are no nests or young to defend, the only real danger of being stung is from accidentally stepping on or pressing against one.
Figure 1. Use an aerosol insecticide
to destroy a paper wasp nest
(Photo: Patty Alder)
Control. Queens that are found indoors may simply be swatted or vacuumed. If a queen does manage to get outdoors and start a nest, a broom may be all that is needed to knock it down. If a wasp nest has had some time to grow and is considered to be a hazard, they are most easily destroyed in the evening with an aerosol insecticide that is labeled for "hornets or wasps" (see Figure 1). This type of treatment may be considered an emergency (especially if the nest is located in place likely to be encountered) which means application to the nest can be made as long as notification occurs within 72 hours of application.