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Extension > Yard and Garden News > Wasp queens active now

Wasp queens active now

Jeffrey Hahn, Extension Entomologist

Jeff Hahn, University of Minnesota

Photo 1: Yellowjacket queens are occasionally found indoors during early spring

Now that spring has finally arrived, much to our relief, we may need to deal with insects that have been overwintering within our homes. This includes yellowjackets (Vespula spp. and Paravespula spp.) and paper wasps (Polistes spp.). Once freezing temperatures arrived last fall, the old queen and all the workers in nests died. The only survivors were the queens that were produced during late summer.

After these new queens mated, they left their nests and started looking for sheltered, protected sites to spend the winter, much like boxelder bugs or lady beetles. These sites include firewood, loose bark on trees and logs, brick piles, under leaves, as well as in and around buildings. The wasp queens remain inactive until it starts to warm up during late winter and early spring. When queens overwinter in homes, they can also become active when mild temperatures occur during mid-winter.

Jeff Hahn, University of Minnesota

Photo 2: Many paper wasp queen can sometimes be found in homes during early spring

Once active, wasp queens leave their overwintering sites and start to look for an appropriate place to begin a new nest. If they are in buildings, they usually become trapped. Finding wasp queens in homes and other buildings during early spring does not mean a nest is present. While only one or two yellowjacket queens at normally seen at a time, it is possible to see a larger number of paper wasp queens as they like to overwinter gregariously, i.e. in non-social groups.

Physical removal is the only necessary control for wasp queens found indoors. They are just a nuisance and do not indicate a bigger problem. Use a jar or some sort of container to remove and release them outside. If they are by a window or door, just open it up and let them fly out. Killing and removing queens is also an option. This is a temporary problem that will go away on its own.


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