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Spring Queen-ing

paper wasp/polistes metricusIt’s technically not spring yet, but the onset of warmer temperatures in March can bring an unwelcome invader: The paper wasp queen, searching for a spot to settle and start her colony for the summer.

Each paper wasp colony from last year can produce several queens that will each create their own nest this year.

Paper wasp queens spend winter hibernating in sheltered places and crevices, indoors or out. The queens of this species are the first to emerge in springtime (before hornets and yellowjackets), usually when daytime temperatures reach 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

Once the queen emerges, her first order of business is to start a nest to house the colony she will establish. Unlike Chip and Joanna Gaines, a “fixer-upper” will not entice her, so she will not return to an old nest. Only new construction will do!

The paper wasp queen uses her mouthparts to scrape pieces of raw wood fiber from fences, trees, plant stems and logs. In a pinch, she can also use cardboard or construction paper.

She then chews the wood fiber, breaking it down with the saliva in her mouth and forming a paper pulp. Once she chooses a location for her nest, she uses the pulp to begin construction.

paper wasp nestPaper wasp build nests that look like open honeycombs or upside-down umbrellas suspended from an eave or ceiling, with each open cell housing the larva of one wasp.

But these paper wasp nests can also appear in the most unusual places:

  • Under lawn furniture
  • Inside a mailbox
  • Inside an electrical box
  • Underneath a grill cover

Wasps are territorial and will defend their nests by attacking and stinging. Because their stings are quite painful and can produce a potentially fatal anaphylactic reaction in some individuals, nests built around human activity areas may present an unacceptable hazard.

To effectively eliminate paper wasps before they build nests, you can use the TrapStik® for Wasps to catch the queens in early spring.

Place the TrapStik® where you normally might see signs of wasp activity -- such as under the eaves of a house, garage or shed. 

With the new bird guards, the TrapStik® has increased protection for wildlife, but it's still a good idea to avoid hanging it where birds congregate or other wildlife activity takes place. 

You can find the TrapStik® in Home Depot, Lowe's, ACE Hardware, True Value Hardware and Do-it Best Hardware; select Walmart store locations in the Western U.S.; and many other lawn & garden retailers.