What do paper wasps pollinate?

There is a football-sized paper wasp nest near my lingonberries, black ice plum, and kiwis. Does anyone know if they pollinate any of those. I plan to leave the wasps where they are, as they are out of the way and not disturbing anything.

A bit off topic, but if you’re going to leave it there just make sure it’s in a location where it truly is highly unlikely to get accidentally disturbed.

From your description, it sounds like it could possibly be a hornets’ nest. If something disturbs their nest (e.g., bumps into it) they get agitated very easily and can decide to go after anything they can find that they think might have been the guilty party and they’ll do it en masse and totally relentlessly. Not good…

I don’t know if they help pollinate your trees but they do eat a lot of insects so I leave them alone. I get a lot of bumblebees around my place as well and I know they do help with the pollination. As long as you don’t disturb their nest they should not bother you.

Where are you? I can’t think of any paper wasps or hornets that would have an established nest yet in the north woods. None of those species use perennial nests. They all die off except mated queens each year and start new in spring.
Could you be seeing a nest from last season? Although they do usually fall apart and get knocked down by now.

Yes, this nest was there last year. There is also one under the eave of our house. I guess they are not paper wasps, but hornets. We are east of St. Paul, MN. I assumed they reused the nests. Maybe not.

According to wikipedia, paper wasps pollinate / feed on nectar, and also feed on caterpillars, bettles and other insects. I have seen them on allium / onion flowers and sedum flowers, coexisting peacefully with bees.

A wasp nest looks very different from a hornet nest. Can you post a photo?

I don’t know how to do photos, but it looks like a swirl of gray cotton candy.

that’s a hornet nest

You can google on paper wasp nest and google on hornets nest. It sounds to me like a hornets nest. What to do about them is beyond my knowledge. Hornets are scary.

It’s high in a pine tree, so not likely to get bumped. I had hoped it might help pollinate, but doesn’t sound like hornets do much pollinating. Well, I plan to just leave it be.

Hornets unlike honeybees can be very aggressive if disturbed or if your around the front side. Take it from me, they will on occasion light a fire in your rear if they are in the least way disturbed. Bill

Aren’t those the ones as kids we threw rocks at to see who got stung first?


I have been stung by these in the past, and I must admit, their sting is rather painful, but hopefully this is just a vacant nest, since it was there last year already. I still wonder what they eat.

I see paper wasps in egg plant & pepper flowers they could be helping pollinate them.
Its a reason to be careful when picking.
The best reason to keep wasps in your garden is they are fantastic predators for caterpillers.
It is a joy to watch them suck the caterpillars insides out.
Never caught it on camera yet.

They usually make nests under the eaves of houses.
The reason for this is to protect the nests from wasp eaters.
The bravest bird on the planet.
This bird eats the adults and the brood.
Picture below the bird had already eaten the whole nest by the time i got the camera working.


Wow! What a great picture, David. We have determined that our critters are hornets, not wasps. The ones that make those umbrella nests like in your picture are very peaceful. We have a lot of those around, also, but you can almost stick your hand right on their nests and they don’t bother you. I hope the kind of hornets that make the nests that look like spun gray cotton candy in the shape of a football eat caterpillars or pollinate.

Hornets more aggressive than wasps- I don’t know about that. Yellow jackets and their nastier white face black bodied brothers certainly go after me if I’m pruning an apple tree and shake a branch they are nesting on during a summer prune. I’ve been up very high when they’ve started stinging me so now I try to remember to check things out thoroughly- especially before ascending a big tree. They usually aren’t in trees that have been sprayed in Spring.

I knock them out of the tree with the cheap canned wasp killers that spray about 15 feet. They say only use it in the cool of morning but I do it whenever I must prune a tree that they have inhabited. It’s not all that hard.

At home I just knock them out with a strong stream of water.

By late summer they are often swarming and destroying ripe fruit so I set out traps for them - two to a tree and refill with apple juice once a week or so. After a couple weeks of major trapping things get under control.

In the northeast we don’t have a lot of hornets- at least I don’t cross paths with them but if they are more aggressive than yellow jackets they must be fierce.

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Alan we have an ample supply of yellow jackets/hornets and I have been stung by both. The yellow jackets are painful to me but the hornet is about ten time worst. I once opened up a strong hive of honeybees that I suspect had already been disturbed. If memory serves me right I was stung about 30 time in a minute or two and I did not consider it to be as bad as one hornet. This sounds like some of my war stories so I will stop on that note. Bill


I know of two persons who got stung in the mouth by yellow jackets when drinking pop from a can. Always pour it into a cup when drinking it outside in the fall! Yellow jackets are a real nuisance at that time, especially in pears. Their sting is nothing like a hornet’s though, as Bill said.

The most likely culprit for a nest in a tree that looks like swirled cotton candy is the bald-faced hornet.

Here’s a picture of a nest: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bald-faced_hornet#/media/File:Bald-faced_hornet_(Dolichovespula_maculata)_nest.JPG

Here are two pictures showing what these bad boys look like:

Here are several Wikipedia quotes about them:
“Workers aggressively defend their nest by repeatedly stinging invaders.”
“Adult hornets are carnivorous, and will prey upon several insect types. They have been observed consuming meat, spiders, fruit and insects. Adults will also drink flower nectar which they feed to their larvae.”
“They chew up wood, which mixes with a starch in their saliva. They then spread it around with their mandibles and legs, and it dries into a papery structure. The workers guard the nest and feed on nectar, tree sap and fruit pulp (particularly that of apples). They also prey on insects and other arthropods, chewing them up and feeding them to the larvae. They have been known to scavenge raw meat.”

Speaking of chewing up wood to build their nests and feeding on tree sap, if I am not mistaken they have been known to girdle trees (although I’m sure this is fairly rare). Also, certain types of wasps will attack and destroy honeybee nests - these may be one of them (not sure though - I’ll let someone else look this up).

Auburn said: “Alan we have an ample supply of yellow jackets/hornets and I have been stung by both. The yellow jackets are painful to me but the hornet is about ten time worst. I once opened up a strong hive of honeybees that I suspect had already been disturbed. If memory serves me right I was stung about 30 time in a minute or two and I did not consider it to be as bad as one hornet.”

I got stung once by one of these things as a kid (barefoot, didn’t see it, stepped on it). I’ve been stung by a variety of other things (honeybees, bumblebee, yellowjackets, other wasps), so I do have some decent reference points for comparison.

All I can say is that Auburn’s description of badly these things sting is not in the least bit exaggerated.


There’s also the European hornet (see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_hornet), although they prefer to build their nests in dark places where they aren’t readily seen.

The European hornet is for sure known to girdle tree branches and attack and destroy honeybee colonies.

Wikipedia says this:
“Known for being extremely aggressive, V. crabro are usually regarded as pests by those humans who come into contact with them… They are also defensive of their hive and can be aggressive around food sources. They are carnivorous and eat large insects: primarily wasps, large moths, and other large bees. Care should be taken when encountered in these circumstances as they may sting without warning. The pain from the sting may persist for several days with attendant swelling. Victims may wish to seek medical attention in case of allergic reaction.”