Paper wasps (Polistes sp.) are named because of the paper-like nests the queens build. They are members of the family Vespidae. Paper wasps are primitively eusocial, like bees. There are three castes: fertile queens, infertile female workers, and fertile males who do nothing but fertilize the queen.
Founding queens sometimes start a nest in a group with their sisters. The other queens become “subordinate foundresses” and fill the roles of workers. If the primary foundress dies, one of her subordinates can become queen and fulfill her role.
Workers forage for nectar, as well as live prey such as caterpillars and other larvae. They also gather wood fibers with which to increase the size of the nest. The workers also defend the nest by stinging.
Polistes is the most common family in North America, with 17 species distributed primarily in warmer areas. Most are rust-colored, with black and yellow bands, although there is great variability in appearance.
Polistes wasps look fierce, but are generally peaceable, and will sting only when directly threatened. This one politely let me get very close with the camera for one or two shots.
Read a little more about paper wasps here.