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Gardening in Washington State

A Beneficial Wasp in the Wrong Place, Wrong Time Becomes a Pest

As a newcomer to our home landscapes in the Pacific Northwest (PNW), the European paper wasp, Polistes dominula, has a reputation as both a beneficial predator and a pest. The European paper wasp is a relatively tame wasp that forages within landscape plants in search of leaf-feeding caterpillars and other insect prey. However, it is also a nuisance pest that will sting people who accidentally disturb or threaten it or its nest.

Paper wasp

In early spring, homeowners may remove wasp nests by knocking them down with a long broom, pole, or strong stream of water from a hose. This is the best time to remove a nest because only a single female will be guarding it. It may take repeated removal of each nest to discourage the wasps from replacing it. It is important to wear gloves and protective clothing to reduce any risk of getting stung, and although the sting is mild, it will get your attention.

For more information, go to The European Paper Wasp  FS152E located at http://cru.cahe.wsu.edu/CEPublications/FS152E/FS152E.pdf.

Submitted by: Mike Bush and Todd Murray, March 31, 2015

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2 comments on “A Beneficial Wasp in the Wrong Place, Wrong Time Becomes a Pest”

  1. Pam Larsen said on May 30, 2018:

    Question: The usual paper wasp nest is 3″ or so with many wasps produced. Each spring I also see 1″ paper wasp nests that may have none, one, perhaps 2 (?) additional wasps produced. The nests are never increased in size. Can you give me some information on these?

  2. Mike Bush said on May 30, 2018:

    Dear Client,

    From what you described, I imagine you are encountering the newly initiated nests constructed by the overwintering paper wasps. As the season progresses, some nests are unsuccessful and the parent wasp (and her first generation of offspring) is either killed or abandoned the nest for some reason. Come August, the successful nests with become larger and may contain a few dozen paper wasp adults and lots of nest cells filled with larvae.

    It is for this reason that you want to knock down the nests early in the season- when they are guarded by fewer adult paper wasps. Hope this answers your question.

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