How To Treat A Paper Wasp Sting At Home

Some bug bites and stings hurt worse than others. For example, getting bitten by a beetle hurts. Getting stung by a honey bee hurts worse. Getting stung by a paper wasp is pure torture.

Trust me, I know from experience. When I was nine-years-old I was playing in the field behind my house and out of nowhere felt an excruciating, burning pain in my ankle.

I looked down to see a huge, scary looking wasp stinging me over and over again on my foot. I’ve honestly never felt such pain. It hurt so bad it was seared into my memory, and it’s a memory I still think about often. My dad had to carry me back home and I remember watching my ankle swell up to the size of a grapefruit.

My mom called the pediatrician immediately, certain I should be seen. “Don’t worry.” The doctor said. “Wasp stings are painful, but unless she’s having an allergic reaction, you can treat a paper wasp sting at home.”

A Paper Wasp sting? What on earth is a Paper Wasp, and why on earth did it sting me in the first place? Better yet, how were we going to treat such a painful sting? Turns out, treating a wasp sting at home is shockingly easy and totally doable.

So, if you or someone you know has just been stung by a Paper Wasp, don’t panic. In this article, I’m going to share my wisdom about paper wasps with you. Together, we’ll learn why they sting and how you can treat a Paper Wasp sting at home.

What Is A Paper Wasp And Where Do They Live?

Pic 1 a brown and yellow wasp on white flowers
Paper Wasps are a type of wasp known to inhabit North America and other parts of the world.

A Paper Wasp is an insect that inhabits most parts of the world. “Paper Wasp” is a broad term to describe hundreds of different species of wasps, 22 of which reside in North America.

Today, there have been over 300 different species of Paper Wasps located throughout the world, and all of them have one very particular thing in common – they sting and it hurts.

Sometimes called Umbrella Wasps, Paper Wasps are named for the type of nests they create using their saliva. These nests look as if they are made of paper and have umbrella shaped entryways.

Wasps enjoy daylight and warmth, so Paper Wasps are most common and active in spring and summer. They can build their nests almost anywhere, but tend to prefer trees or enclosed areas like garden sheds, garages and barns.

Some people find wasp nests in their homes and others have even found a wasp nest in their wardrobe or closet! Imagine the shock!

In my case, I stumbled upon a wasp nest that was built in the ground and hidden by tall grass. Yes, paper wasp nests can be lurking anywhere, so you have to be vigilant.

What Makes A Paper Wasp Sting Someone In The First Place?

Pic 2 a wasp stinging a person
Wasps are territorial and will sting anything they perceive as a threat.

A wasp sting hurts, and part of the human response to pain is anger or frustration. That said, try and remember a wasp doesn’t sting you because she wants to be mean and hurt you for no reason.

Wasps only sting when they feel threatened, and they often sting in numbers. But what makes a wasp feel threatened? When I was stung, I wasn’t running around the field kicking up dirt and trying to purposely destroy the wasp nest I stepped on. That said, I did step on the nest, which launched the wasp into a frenzied attack as she tried to defend herself and her young.

All the kicking, screaming, swatting and waving I did only made her feel more threatened, and she stung me repeatedly over and over again because of it.

This is normal, and she wasn’t doing it out of spite. She was simply trying to protect what was hers.

If you get too close to a wasp nest, even unintentionally, a wasp may feel threatened and become territorial and aggressive. In an effort to keep you away from their domain, wasps will often attack in numbers in the hopes of driving what they perceive as a predator or enemy in the other direction and away from their home.

How Is A Paper Wasp Sting Different From A Bee Sting?

Pic 3 a closeup of a wasp stinger
Wasp stingers are full of venom, which leads to a much more painful sting than bees. 

I have mentioned that wasps sting over and over again. This is one of the main differences between a wasp sting and a bee sting.

When a bee stings, it can only do so once. The bee’s stinger then breaks off and the bee dies. Both wasps and bees have stingers that are filled with venom and that venom causes pain and sometimes swelling and allergic reactions.

Because a bee loses his stinger once he stings you, he also releases all of his venom at once into your body, which is usually around 50 micrograms. A wasp only releases about two to 15 micrograms per sting.

However, a wasp sting can still be more dangerous than a bee sting, and here’s why.

The Paper Wasp does not lose her stinger and is able to repeatedly sting over and over again.

For this reason, a paper wasp sting can actually be more dangerous than a bee sting because a wasp’s venom-filled stinger not only hurts, but has multiple chances of causing someone to have an allergic reaction.

A wasp stinger also penetrates into your skin deeper than a bee stinger. Sounds pleasant, right?

Identifying A Paper Wasp From A Bee

Pic 4 a brown paper wasp on a leaf Pic 5 a honey bee on purple flowers
Paper Wasp Honey Bee

Paper wasps have elongated bodies and longer wings, while honey bees have shorter, fuzzy bodies.  

Bees and wasps can look similar, but it’s easy to tell the two apart once you know what to look for. In general, paper wasps have elongated bodies, longer, thinner legs, and longer wings. Paper wasps are also smooth all over with separated abdominals and heads.

Honey bees, on the other hand, have short antennas, thicker, hairy bodies and legs to hold pollen, and shorter, more compact.

The Paper Wasp Sting – Fast Facts You Should Know

Pic 6 a black and orange wasp on purple flowers
There are 22 species of Paper Wasps in North America alone.

Let’s brush up on some interesting and quick facts about Paper Wasps.

  • Paper Wasps get their name from the paper-like wasp nests they make with their  saliva. Their nests can be built relatively anywhere they deem fit including trees, barns, sheds, bedrooms, and even underground.
  • Male wasps don’t have stingers and therefore can’t sting. That’s why I keep referring to Paper Wasps as females.
  • Paper Wasps can sting over and over again, making a wasp sting more dangerous to humans than a honey bee sting. And while wasps do release less venom in their stinger than bees, the number of stings they inflict can lead to a higher chance of an allergic reaction.
  • Unlike bees, paper wasps don’t die after they sting you.
  • Paper wasps are a level 3.0 on the Schmidt Pain Index. Considering the Schmidt Pain Index only goes up to level 4.0, we would consider a Paper Wasp sting pretty painful.
  • You can have a different reaction to the same type of wasp sting each time you are stung. This means you can develop a severe allergic reaction to a sting at any time, even if you have been stung before and didn’t have a reaction at all.
  • Paper Wasps tend to attack predators in large numbers when they feel threatened, so where there is one wasp there are many.

Treating A Paper Wasp Sting At Home

Pic 7 first aid supplies
You can treat most wasp stings at home with supplies from your first aid kit.  

If you’ve just suffered a Paper Wasp sting and are having trouble breathing, feeling dizzy, experiencing nausea or vomiting, or experiencing severe swelling, call 911 or go to the hospital immediately as this could be a sign of anaphylactic shock.

However, if and are having a mild or moderate reaction to a wasp sting, simply follow these below steps to treat the sting at home.

  • Wash the area you were stung with soap and water.
  • Apply hydrocortisone, calamine lotion, baking soda or colloidal oatmeal to help sooth the pain and reduce irritation, itching and burning.
  • A vinegar-soaked cotton ball can help reduce the acidity of a wasp sting. However, vinegar does not help bee stings.
  • Use an ice pack or a cooling gel pack to help reduce swelling and pain
  • You may also take ibuprofen or other over the counter pain relievers like Advil to help reduce swelling and pain if necessary.
  • If the sting area is itchy, you can take antihistamines like benadryl.
  • You may cover the sting area with a bandage or gauze to help keep the wasp sting clean and dry.
  • Last, you can use an ice pack or a cooling gel pack to help reduce swelling and pain.

How Long Does The Pain Of A Paper Wasp Sting Last After Treatment?

Pic 8 a womans right foot is swollen from a sting
It may take a few hours before swelling goes down after a wasp sting, but pain should only last about five to ten minutes. 

A Paper Wasp sting can be very painful, but luckily the severity of the pain normally doesn’t last long. Usually the worst of the pain wears off in as little as five to ten minutes. That said, swelling and mild to moderate pain can take up to a week or more to heal, depending on your individual sensitivities to stings and whether or not you suffered a normal reaction or a large reaction.

Let’s take a look at the difference of these two reactions when it comes to a wasp sting.

Symptoms Of A Normal Local Reaction To A Paper Wasp Sting

A normal, localized reaction to a wasp sting includes a small welt around the sting area with a raised, white center where the stinger entered your skin. The skin may be sensitive to the touch and may itch or burn for several days.

Most mild reactions to a Paper Wasp sting are resolved within two to three days.

Symptoms Of A Large Local Reaction To A Paper Wasp Sting 

If you are having a large local reaction to a Paper Wasp sting, chances are you may be slightly allergic. Large local reactions come when the sting site swells beyond that of a welt. For example, when I was stung by the Paper Wasp in the field, my whole foot became the size of a grapefruit. This would be considered a large local reaction.

While large local reactions can be a sign of an allergy to the Paper Wasp sting, they are usually not serious and do not always mean you must go to the hospital.

However, just to be safe, I do recommend you contact your doctor for further advice if you are experiencing a large local reaction, lots of swelling, and especially if you feel dizzy, nauseous, or begin vomiting.

Signs Of An Allergic Reaction To A Paper Wasp Sting

Pic 9 a person with a hive from a bee sting
Large hives like this one may be the first sign you are having an allergic reaction to the sting. 

As we mentioned above, an allergic reaction to a paper wasp sting does not always mean you must go to the hospital. The image above is a good example of a large local reaction to a Paper Wasp sting that can still be treated at home.

However, there are signs you should watch out for that accompany this type of reaction that could mean you are severely allergic  to a Paper Wasp sting and need emergency care.

Signs of a severe allergic reaction or anaphylactic shock include:

  • Intense swelling of your face, lips or throat
  • Hives or itching that spread over the body and are not localized to the sting area
  • Trouble breathing, shortness of breath, wheezing, or gasping for air
  • Feeling faint or dizzy
  • A drop in your blood pressure
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Severe stomach cramps
  • Loss of consciousness

If you were stung by a bee or wasp and are suffering from any of the above symptoms, seek medical help immediately.

This video below gives great insight into stinging insect reactions and what to look for in an allergic reaction to a Paper Wasp sting.

My Favorite Natural Products To Help Keep Paper Wasps Out Of Your Yard And Garden

Pic 10 a Paper Wasp nest
If you see the above nest, back away. It’s a paper wasp nest! 

You can work to avoid a Paper Wasp sting altogether by keeping these wasps out of your yard and garden.

Below are five of my favorite natural products to help repel Paper Wasps in your home and garden so you can enjoy your time outdoors.

FMI Hanging Wasp Deterrent

Paper Wasps are naturally territorial insects and will go out of their way to avoid building nests near other wasp and hornet nests. That’s what makes this hanging wasp deterrent by FMI so effective.

It uses a wasp’s natural instincts to keep them away without harming them by making them think your home or garden has already been occupied.

It’s genius!

Wondercide Natural Indoor Wasp And Pest Control Spray

Wondercide is one of my favorite products for pest control options because it’s made with all natural ingredients and is safe to use around kids and animals.

This particular product is meant to be used indoors, which is especially helpful when trying to defend your domain against Paper Wasps, as they do like to come inside now and again. This bug repellent also protects against spiders, ticks, roaches, flies, ants and more.

Tanglefoot Waspinator Wasp Repellent

Another false wasp nest that helps keep wasps away is the Waspinator by Tanglefoot. I haven’t tried this one but I do like that it comes in a set of three and you can take these with you camping or picnicking, or you can simply hang them around your backyard and porch.

Like the other false wasp nest above, the Waspinator works by using a Paper Wasp’s natural territorial instincts to keep it away. That means this product is completely non toxic and safe for use around children and pets.

What a great way to reduce the chances of a Paper Wasp sting!

Tips On Avoiding A Paper Wasp Sting Altogether

Pic 11 a paperwasp at his nest
If you come across a Paper Wasp nest, turn the other way and remain calm. 

Remember, Paper Wasps don’t sting to be mean. If you experience a Paper Wasp sting, chances are you unintentionally got a little too close and caused a Paper Wasp to feel threatened or territorial.

You can work to avoid a Paper Wasp sting by being vigilant when you are outdoors, especially during the spring and summer months and especially during daylight.

If you do come across a Paper Wasp or a Paper Wasp nest, stay calm and move in the other direction. Screaming, waving your arms, or swatting at a Paper Wasp can cause it to become irritated and even more aggressive, which can lead to an even higher chance of a Paper Wasp sting.

Still, even while being vigilant it is sometimes impossible to avoid a Paper Wasp sting, or any sting for that matter. Wasps are small insects that aren’t always easy to spot, which is why these types of stings are so common.

The most important thing you can do if you experience a Paper Wasp sting is stay calm and get the care you need.

Happy spring!

Paper Wasp Sting