Red wasps are a nuisance insect that many a homeowner has encountered. Red wasps are a type of paper wasp due to the characteristic nests they construct and can measure up to one inch in length. They can be distinguished from other species of wasps by their long, red to reddish-brown bodies and dark (often black) wings.
Red wasps have a range that extends all across North America, but they are most prevalent in the Eastern and Midwestern regions of the United States. These wasps can become an issue should they choose to establish a colony on your property. They may build their nests in hollow trees or the eaves, soffits and overhangs of your home's roof, among other places.
Red wasp nests
Red wasps usually start building their nests in spring when the weather warms up and stay active until late summer. They are diurnal insects, meaning they are active during daylight hours. If allowed to continue their labors uninterrupted, wasp nests can grow quite large — big enough to accommodate hundreds of individual insects (although only a small percentage of this population consists of mature adults). Wasp nests can be identified by several distinctive features, including:
- The nest has an umbrella and honey-comb appearance.
- The nest is a hanging structure and is attached to its supporting frame by a single strand of material.
- The nest is constructed from a papery substance. The wasps themselves create this "paper" by chewing and regurgitating harvested wood and plant fibers.
How to help avoid getting stung by red wasps
Red wasps are territorial and will likely defend their nests if they feel threatened. If you encounter a red wasp nest, keep your distance. If a red wasp approaches you, try to avoid attempts at swatting it away. Aggressive and threatening gestures may only incite the wasp(s) and increase your chances of being stung.
Red wasp stings
A single red wasp can sting multiple times. Only female red wasps are equipped with a stinger. All red wasps can release alarm pheromones, which are chemical signals that alert other wasps of danger and can lead to swarming.
When a red wasp stings, it injects a tiny payload of venom into the victim's skin. The result can be a sharp pain, burning sensation and potential swelling.
What to do if you get stung by a red wasp
In some instances, the victim of a red wasp sting may experience an allergic reaction. According to the Mayo Clinic, if someone has been stung by a wasp (or bee) and exhibits any of the following symptoms, he or she may be in danger of experiencing a severe allergic reaction, up to and including anaphylactic shock:
- Hives and/or itching and flushed or pale skin
- Difficulty breathing
- Swelling of the throat and tongue
- A weak, rapid pulse
- Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea
- Dizziness or fainting
- Loss of consciousness
The risk of such shock increases if the victim has been stung multiple times. In the case of a severe allergic reaction, call 911 or another emergency service right away.