Red Wasps

Facts, Identification, & Control

Scientific Name

Polistes carolina


What Do They Look Like?

Red Wasp Photo
Red Wasp image licensed under CC

  • Size: Red wasps are about an inch long.
  • Color: They have red bodies with dark, purplish-black colored wings.

How Did I Get Red Wasps?

Red wasp infestations often occur in yards with plenty of trees and flowers.

How Serious Are Red Wasps?

These wasp stings are usually painful but have few lasting effects. In rare cases, their venom may provoke a serious allergic reaction if the person stung is highly allergic to the wasp’s venom.

Red wasps are not as aggressive as yellow jackets and sting only when provoked and they sense the need to defend their nest. Male adults do not have the ability to sting.

Signs of Infestation

Signs of a red wasp infestation includes:

  • Buzzing sounds
  • Chewed wood nests
  • Painful bites

How Do I Get Rid of Red Wasps?

What You Can Do
Helpful things you can do to prevent red wasps:

  • Control Products & Methods
    Wasp freeze or other control products are sold at garden or hardware stores. These wasps that get inside homes should either be carefully removed by trapping, crushing, or vacuuming, but exercise caution to avoid being stung.
  • Remove Nests
    Remove their nests before they become large – the earlier in the nest building process, the better the results. Use a water hose or a long garden tool to destroy them, making sure you keep as much distance between yourself and the nest as possible.

    Before attempting nest removal, plan ahead to make sure you have a good, clear path for escape just in case you need to retreat from any wasps that try to sting.
  • Work After Dark
    Always work after dark since all red wasp colony members return to their nests at night. This helps minimize the chances of being stung and gives you a better chance to completely destroy their nests.

What Orkin Does
Your local Orkin technician is trained to help manage red wasps and similar pests. Since every building or home is different, your Orkin technician will design a unique program for your situation.

Orkin can provide the right solution to keep red wasps in their place and out of your home or business.

Behavior, Diet, & Habits

Red wasps are active during the day and return to their nests at night. Seasonal activity continues when the weather warms up.

What Do They Eat?
Red wasps feed on nectar. Goldenrod is a favorite food source for these wasps.

Where Do They Live?
These wasps make their nests in exposed areas:

  • Along windows and doorframes
  • Inside eaves
  • Outbuildings
  • Under decks

Adult workers and males live on nectar they collect from:

  • Flowers
  • Sweet food waste
  • Sweet liquid containers

Nest Construction
A small stem that supports numerous nest cells attaches to their nests. Their nests generally contain more than 800 wasps. Red wasps do not reuse nests. Their nests are paper-like structures made from:

  • Chewed plant materials
  • Wasp saliva
  • Wood

Colony building begins in the spring when a mated female emerges from her protected overwintering site to find a location to build a nest. Wasps are beneficial insects, because they capture and feed many important pest insects to their colony mates. Elimination of the colony should be done only when there is likelihood that people or pets can be stung.

Since red wasps are social insects, their colonies contain three types of individuals:

  • Fertile queens
  • Males
  • Sterile workers

Geographical Range
Red wasps are found throughout central and eastern portions of the U.S.

Life Cycle

  1. Eggs: Fertile red wasp queens lay an egg in each nest cell.
  2. Larvae: These egg hatch, resulting larvae (grub-like stage) to be fed chewed body parts of other insects.
  3. Pupae: Once the larvae and pupae complete their phase of the life cycle, they become adults.
  4. Adults: Adults care for their larvae and protect their nests, allowing fertile queens to lay more eggs. In late summer or early fall, workers begin to die off, and reproductive males and females leave their nests to mate. After mating, males die and fertilized females find a protected place to overwinter and begin their colonies the following spring.