Paper wasps get their common name from the paper-like material out of which they make their nests. Paper wasps are sometimes called umbrella wasps, after the shape of their distinctive nests.
The new queens emerge from hibernation in the spring. You may see them just sitting in the sun or flying around aimlessly. They are waiting for their ovaries to fully develope so they can begin building their nests and laying eggs. Nests will last throughout summer and into fall. Once into mid to late fall, the paper wasps will make reproductives, fertile males and fertile females. These reproductives will take a mating flight. The males die off and these future queens look for a place to over winter until spring comes and the cycle begins again.
Paper wasps commonly build their nests in places where warm air gets trapped and is sheltered from the rain. These places include under roof eaves, behind window shutters, corners of windows and doors, inside exterior lights, under patio furniture, under deck railings, in bbq grills and in mailboxes.
While not an aggressive species by nature, paper wasps will sting if they are disturbed or they feel that their nest is threatened.This happens frequently since the places they build their nests are places we frequent as well. Humans are at the same risk of allergic reactions from paper wasp stings as they are with other bee and wasp stings.