The strings of a paper wasp nests hanging from the eaves of our homes or businesses are a typical and common part of Australia. 

A few of us have unfortunately blundered into a wasp or 2 and their nest and run frantically through the yard of course pursued by their angry owners. However, the attacks of a wasp are usually and most commonly caused for home security. 

Away from the nests, they rarely will attack. Stings are usually the result of a wasp becoming entangled in clothing or being accidentally grasped. 

Wasps make their nest by chewing weathered or swelling wood and amazingly mixing alongside with its saliva to create a soft material that is formed into the required shape with their jaws and then left to dry and set into its papery form. The common wasps nest consists of several cells, strategically placed together to form a comb. The comb is attached to a surface such as a branch, twig or even a in a corner of your patio roof with 1 or more stalks. 

There are several different species of paper wasps and each has a distinctive nest design. 

In spring, new nests are started by several females who have been inactive through the cooler seasons, resting in cracks and crevices of your properties or priced backyards. Wasps, like ants and bees are social insects, meaning each nest consists of cooperative colonies. Only the queen lays the eggs. The reproduction the other females in the colony are suppressed and the workers are responsible for feeding the young and maintaining entire nest. 

Wasps feed on other small bugs and insects such as caterpillars and play a high and beneficial role by controlling garden pests. Unlike Honeybee’s, the Queen of Australian Paper Wasps are very similar in appearance to the worker wasps. The queen lays an egg in the bottom of each empty cell. When the wasp larvae hatch they are fed with chewed up caterpillars collected by the workers whilst keeping the very important balance. 

When the young are at full growth, the workers close–up the cell with a cap of a papery material. The larvae turn into pupae within the cells and sometime later new adult wasp emerge and remain with the colony. As the weather begins to cool the colony will then produce the male wasps. The male mate with the females who then proceed to find sheltered places in which to spend the winter. 

Australia has approximately 35 native species of paper wasps ranging from 8 to 26mm in length and are patterned in yellow, brown and/or black, often with a banded abdomen. Paper wasps are unusual in having their front pairs of wings folded lengthwise when they are not in use. This distinguishes them from other wasps except Potter wasps, a group that uses mud rather than paper as their nest building material. Our native paper wasps belong to 2 groups, Polistes and Ropalidia. 

Most people are stung when a paper wasp nest is disturbed or the wasps feel threatened. The wasps will swarm out, pursue the intruder, and may inflict multiple stings. 

Sting from a paper wasp are immediately painful and the site of the sting may remain itchy and swollen for several days. The first aid recommended by QLD POISON INFO CENTRE (PH: 13 11 26 are as followed:

  1. Wash the sting area with soap and water and apply an antiseptic 
  2. Apply an ice-pack to reduce any swelling and pain 
  3. Seek medical attention if there are any symptoms other than a local reaction or there are stings of infection. Some individuals are extra sensitive or allergic to chemicals foreign to the body and can react severely and anaphylaxis may occur. For anyone showing signs of severe reaction call 000 for an ambulance and have the patient taken immediately to the emergency department of your nearest hospital.


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