Paper wasps build their colonies out of a paper-like substance that they derive from chewing wood and mixing it with their saliva. These delicate nests are home to small colonies of wasps.
Paper wasps are semi-social, meaning they form smaller groups that usually have more than one queen. These additional queens are relegated to nest building and larvae care, while the true queen continues to lay eggs.
There is no worker class in the paper wasp colony. The other queens take on the duties of the worker class. As the summer progresses, the queen continues to lay eggs, and when late summer arrives, the newly hatched queens and males fly out to mate.
The paper wasp colony will completely die off in the fall with the exception of inseminated females. Queens will hibernate through the winter, which is a very difficult process. Wet weather and temperatures can kill off a number of over-wintering queens.
Once spring begins, the paper wasp queens emerge and find a habitat to build a new nest. Paper wasps like to build nests in protected areas, such as under eaves and windowsills. Paper wasps get their nest building material from places where raw wood is exposed. These include tree branches with the bark removed, or unfinished fencing.
Once the queen has begun the nest, other paper wasp queens will join in the nest building. If the founding queen dies, one of the other queens will take over to continue the success of the colony.
Paper wasp queens will begin to build cells to lay their eggs. When the eggs hatch into larvae, the queens will care for them, feeding them high-protein foods, like caterpillars and other pests. This makes the paper wasp a beneficial insect to most gardeners.