Red Paper Wasp

Polistes carolina

Red Paper Wasp - Polistes carolina

Red Paper Wasp – Polistes carolina

One of two types of red paper wasps (Polistes carolina) is a species of social wasp. They are most commonly found in the eastern U.S. from Texas through Nebraska.  The wasp’s common name is due to the reddish-brown color of its head and body. They are attracted to humans due to loud noises, bright colors, and sweet smells, such as food and perfume. [3]

Wasp Nest

Wasp nest in an unused bird house

Their nests are a familiar sight in the eastern U.S.  They build in sheltered areas often in close proximity to humans, such as the open space under a roof.  Like most paper wasps, P. carolina constructs nests by chewing plant and wood fibers with saliva to create a paper-like material.  When dried, their nests form an upside-down umbrella or dome shape with exposed honeycomb-like cells, opening at the bottom. [3]

Some Bad News:

  • They can sting.
  • The sting of Red Paper Wasps can be more painful that that of other wasps. [3]
  • Unlike bees, wasps do not lose their stingers, thus they are able to sting multiple times. [3]
  • Some people are known to have severe allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis, to wasp stings, and should seek immediate medical attention if severe symptoms begin to appear. [3]

Some Good News:

  • Red Paper Wasp - Polistes carolina

    Red Paper Wasp – Polistes carolina

    Paper Wasps are beneficial: they prey on caterpillars and other soft-bodies insects and pests. [1]

  • Wasps are very important pollinators for a variety of plants. [2]
  • While some wasps (e.g. yellow jackets) are aggressive, many wasp species are slow to anger. [1]
  • Only females have the ability to sting. [3]
  • Red wasp stingers do not remain in their victims. [3]
  • Unless you are allergic (as mentioned above), applying a cold compress or ice to the area can help relieve swelling. [3]

Unless a wasp nest is close to an area that is in a high traffic part of your yard, leaving it alone is the best plan.  We were unable to find a reference to any way to move a wasp nest that doesn’t present a risk to the person doing the moving.  Some of the methods suggested for killing them were equally risky and can involve toxic chemicals, which harm everyone. Although stingers can be scary, wasps are an important part of the food chain and help control pests so leave them in peace if at all possible.


References and Additional Information

[1]  The Xerces Society:  Paper Wasps, Just Like Us – July 2014
[2]  USDA Forest Service:  Wasp Pollination
[3]  Wikipedia:  Polistes carolina