When Paper Wasps Attack and How to Protect Yourself


There are many types of paper wasps from several different families. Some were introduced to Australia from our friends across the ditch in New Zealand, and these trans-Tasman transplants are most prevalent in southeast Queensland and Northern New South Wales.

Paper wasps on bike
Paper wasps on bike

They primarily feed on the nectar and pollen of plants but make their nests out of paper like material using plant and wood fibres mixed with their saliva, thus their identifying name of “paper wasp”.  You will generally find these nests under tree branches and the eaves of houses, and they are often shaped like inverted cones or long strings on a window sill.

Paper wasps are different in appearance from many other types of wasps as they have narrow waists and long legs, which hang below them as they fly.

Do paper wasps die off in winter?

There is a myth that paper wasps die off in autumn or winter.  While their general life span is 12-20 days during winter, they go into a form of hibernation, waiting for warmer weather. Unfortunately, paper wasps often choose to nest in warm sheltered spots over winter, including roof cavities, garages and eaves.

Will paper wasps attack?

While a colony of paper wasps may look menacing, they will only attack humans after provocation or a perceived threat to their nests.  But when they do, it can be far worse than a bee stinging you.

Unlike bees who dies after a single sting, paper wasps have the ability to sting you, and others, multiple times during their lifetime without dying.

When a paper wasp attacks, a pheromone in the venom from the sting attracts other individuals and causes them to become more aggressive.

Multiple stings increase the risk of health problems, especially if you are stung on the face, neck or chest, or if you have an anaphylactic reaction.

What do you do if you get stung by a paper wasp?

If you are stung by a paper wasp immediately wash the area with soap and water to remove as much of the venom as possible, and ice the area to help ease the pain and swelling.

If you are prone to severe reactions or have been stung many times on your face or neck, then call 000. Apply a pressure bandage to the site if possible until help arrives.

Over the counter pain medication can help with the side-effects of the sting, while antihistamine medications, hydrocortisone creams or calamine lotion can help with the sore skin BUT if pain and swelling persists, see your doctor.

If you have paper wasps in your garden or building their paper nest on the windows or walls of you property, then call Peter the Possum Man to safely remove them for you.