Numerous species within the family Vespidae

Also known as Yellow Jacket

Wasp feeding on a raspberry
Wasp feeding on a raspberry
Wasp harvesting wood to make a paper nest
Wasp harvesting wood to make a paper nest

Host Plants:

Where Found:

Worldwide except in Arctic climates


Because wasps sting when provoked, most people quickly learn to recognize species that are common in their area. Familiar paper wasps build houses under the eaves of houses, while yellowjackets nest in the ground, often in abandoned rodent tunnels. To avoid unwanted confrontations, learn where to look for nests of these or other wasps that make their homes in or near your garden. If you can conserve a nest by fencing it off, you will gain the services of a hugely efficient pest patrol operation.

Beneficial Because:

Many types of wasps work alone, but the species that get our attention work in organized colonies. Like honeybees, many wasps start the season as small colonies, which increase in size as summer goes on. By late summer, hundreds or thousands of wasps may live in an established nest. But unlike honeybees, which gather flower nectar and pollen, wasps are carnivorous. They feed their young protein in the form of insects gleaned from trees, yards and gardens. All wasps kill so many smaller insects that organic gardeners should accept them whenever possible.

Food and Habitat:

Nesting sites vary with species, and may be hard to predict. Tolerate dirt-dauber wasps when you can, because the mother wasp places a cache of gathered insects in each egg cell she makes. They will eat various soft-bodied invertebrates during spring and summer, and turn to ripe fruits and sugary food in the fall.

Attracting More:

Peaceful coexistence is a worthy goal with wasps. When a nest is found in a location that can be made safe from people and pets, it should be marked or fenced off and left undisturbed. Old nests are vacated in winter, and can be safely handled after a few hard freezes.

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