Paper Wasp


By: Ruth DeVries

Have you ever been stung by a wasp?  most people have at some time or another, and it can be painful. Wasps are attracted to bright colors which is one way they locate the nectar from flowers. So wearing bright colors can be a problem, especially if you are near their nest. The paper wasp gets its name form the papery material that forms their nest. Please read below too learn interesting information about the paper wasp and then take the quiz!

I am the most common wasp in the Sonoran desert.
  paper wasp are from the Polistes family of wasps and are known for designing an open nest. There are three common types of paper wasps. One is the yellow paper wasp, second the Navajo paper wasp and third Arizona paper wasp.  Shown here, is the Arizona paper wasp which is slightly smaller and more spindle-shaped and is a beautiful brownish-red with thin yellow cross bands on the abdomen. Paper wasps live in colonies. They have three castes, the workers, the queens and the male each having their own job. 

Paper wasps are  about 1 inch long, they are longer, thinner, and more smooth and shiny than honey bees and have a long slender narrow waist. Wasps have three parts to their body, 1st the head, where they have two compound eyes and antennas that are used for touch and smell, 2nd is the middle part of the body that’s called the thorax where the legs and wings are attached. The wings are smoky black and fold lengthwise when at rest. 3rd is the abdomen which contains the digestive and reproduction systems.

I search for food during the day time.  I mainly feed on the nectar of flowers and I eat other insects such as caterpillars, flies and beetle larvae,  I capture my prey and immediately eat it.  The wasp’s mouth parts are designed both for chewing food and for sucking up liquids.


Wasps live in a colony with other wasps and are talented nest builders. They build a nest out of wood fibers, mainly by using wood from posts and from some live plant stems. They chew the fiber and form it into single hexagonal cells that are paper thin. The nest is suspended by a single filament and hangs downward like an upside-down umbrella. Up to 200 wasps can live in a nest. The nest has open cells, and is not covered with a cap. Nests can be found around homes and under the eaves or in and around plants.

I reproduce in the spring. I first select a nesting site and then begin to build a nest. Worker wasps help to build the nest and they also protect the nest. I lay one egg in a single cell of my nest. The mature paper wasp may have 20 to 30 adults in a nest. In late summer the queen stops laying eggs and the colony will soon begin to decline.
Paper wasps often give a warning to their intruders by dive bombing close to a person's face or head. This means that you need to step away and give them room or you will soon be stung. They are natural enemies of many garden insect.


Now would you like to have some fun! Please find the Desert Explorer Mission link at the bottom of the page, click and print out the packet, you can then draw your favorite desert crawlers, and record interesting facts that you have learned.
Paper Wasp - Obtained interesting facts about the paper wasp and photo from this website. 
Everthing About Paper Wasps - Obtained photo at this website and interesting information about the paper wasp.
Agri LIFE EXTENTION Texas A & M extention -  Interesting information about the paper wasp can be found at this website.
Ruth DeVries,
Sep 23, 2011, 3:57 PM