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Arizona has more than its share of insects that sting, including paper wasps. Some varieties of these wasps can deliver a searing sting that comes in at Level Three, the second-highest level, on the famous Schmidt sting pain index. While most of the time, these little critters are not aggressive and stay away from people, they will certainly sting if their colony is threatened.
Paper wasp stings contain toxins that can harm cats, dogs, and people. With repeated stings, people can experience serious reactions, including acute pain, swelling and severe allergic reactions that could result in death. The good news is that with proper prevention and the right treatment from University Termite & Pest Control, even paper wasps are no problem.

How to recognize paper wasps

“Paper” wasps get their name from the thin paper-like walls of their nests. They chew wood fiber, which they collect from plants, to build paper-like, hexagon-shaped cells that come together to become a nest that looks like an upside-down umbrella. Nests can have up to 200 cells to house worker wasps, queens, and drones (males).

Paper wasps range from a bit less than one inch to a little more than one inch in length. Their narrow bodies are dark brown, with delicate black wings and yellow markings. Some people mistake them for the rounder, larger yellow jacket wasp, but paper wasps are more brown.

The paper wasps forage all day, eating flies, beetle larvae, caterpillars, and bringing them back to feed the baby wasps. They also drink nectar from a wide variety of plants, including flowers, fruits and vegetables. At night, they are asleep in the nest.

In Arizona, paper wasps are friends to the farmer, acting like bees to cross-pollinate crops. They also help with keeping down the population of house-flies, an activity we all applaud. However, these are friends that sting – and you definitely do not want them visiting your home!

Where paper wasps live

You know how Arizona’s snowbirds head south in the winter and back north in the summer? Paper wasps have their own seasonal routine.

  • In the winter, the queen and other fertilized female wasps hibernate and seek shelter in protected places like crevices and cracks outside your house and spaces behind tree bark.
  • In the spring, they look for spaces to build their fragile nest around sheltered spaces such as door frames, attics, window sills, roof eaves, and the house’s foundation. Sometimes tree limbs, stacks of wood, or thick vegetation can be a good nesting site for the queens to lay eggs.
  • In late summer, there could be as many as 5,000 wasps in a single nest. By this point, the queen and other female wasps stop laying eggs and the colony stops growing.
  • In fall, the colony declines and all the workers, males, and unfertilized females die. The nest becomes vacant.

If you see a group of paper wasps flying around, you can guess that a nest is nearby. Paper wasps can even come through open doors and cracks in the house to build nests inside walls. This is the time to contact the experts at University Termite & Pest Control.

What to do if you are stung

The first step: avoid getting stung! If you see a nest or a swam of wasps, contact a qualified pest control company with experience in wasp eradication. The second step: prevent further nest building on your property by following a qualified pest control expert’s advice. This is not a time for amateur do-it-yourself remedies – too much is at stake with a wasp infestation around your home.

However, if you are out and about, you can take a few precautions. Paper wasps are naturally attracted to flowers as well as patterns, scents, and colors that resemble their favorite foods. Avoid wearing perfumes outdoors along with bright yellows, reds, and pinks or floral patterns.

If you see a wasp nest or wasps are buzzing close by, leave the area immediately. To protect their nest, they can swarm around you and dozens can sting within seconds. Do not try to swat at the insects or kill them – the angered wasps release pheromones that will draw in more wasps. It is important to get away as fast as you can.

If you are stung, wash the area with enough water to take out the venom and apply an antihistamine cream to ease the pain and reduce swelling. An antibiotic cream is also important for follow-up: some paper wasp stings contain bacteria, which could lead to infection and even sepsis, a life-threatening reaction to infection.

Important: If you start to feel dizzy, nauseous, or fatigued or you have any breathing difficulties, seek immediate medical attention. If the sting area feels hot or swollen after eight hours, you should also seek medical attention.

What to do to get rid of paper wasps

Sighting a nest or swarm of wasps around your house or property translates to a high-priority call to the best pest control professionals in your area. They have ways of removing wasps in a non-toxic way with special dustings and vacuums and doing it right the first time. Less qualified pest control companies can make the situation worse by failing to remove nests and driving the wasps to rebuild nests further inside the walls of a home.

Since 1974, University Termite & Pest Control professionals have helped thousands of home owners across Arizona prevent and treat paper wasp infestations. Their pest control specialists will share their experience and expertise with you to ensure the safety of you and your loved ones in and around your home. Call now for immediate treatment and a thorough inspection of any and all possible entry for paper wasps. Stay safe from visitors that sting!

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