Polistes humilis or common paper wasps are generally slender with long thin wings. They are 10-15 millimetres long, tan in color with darker bands and some yellow on the face. Other species of paper wasps are larger or smaller and differently colored. Paper wasps make nests of grey papery wood fiber material. The nests are cone-shaped, becoming round as more cells are added. Nests are a maximum diameter of 10-12 centimeters, with numerous hexagonal cells underneath, some with white caps. Nests are exposed and suspended by a short stalk under an overhang, often on a pergola, the eaves of a roof or in a shrub or tree. Wasps cluster on the nest or forage in the garden and around buildings.
A typical yellowjacket worker is about 12 mm (0.5 inches) long, with alternating bands on the abdomen while the queen is larger, about 19 mm (0.75 inches) long (the different patterns on the abdomen help separate various species). Workers are sometimes confused with honey bees, especially when flying in and out of their nests. Yellowjackets, in contrast to honey bees, are not covered with tan-brown dense hair on their bodies and lack the flattened hairy hind legs used to carry pollen. Yellowjackets have a lance-like stinger with small barbs and typically sting repeatedly, though occasionally the sting becomes lodged and pulls free of the wasp’s body. All species have yellow or white on the face. Mouthparts are well-developed for capturing and chewing insects, with a proboscis for sucking nectar, fruit and other juices. Nests are built in trees, shrubs or in protected places such as inside human-made structures (attics, hollow walls or flooring, in sheds, under porches and eaves of houses), or in soil cavities, mouse burrows, etc. Nests are made from wood fiber chewed into a paper-like pulp.
32 mm. Large Polistes, red all over with dark wings. P. annularis may be very similar but typically has abdomen with prominent yellow rings. (This character is of unknown reliability–just based on perusal of some images on the Internet.)