I'm really glad that I found these before they found me.
Gardening often has it's surprises, and wasps are one of the more common. Many folks are apt to pull out the bug spray and destroy the nests, but I encourage everyone to think twice.
Social wasps, like these Polistes paper wasps nesting in my American beautyberry, are important parts of the garden ecosystem. They are excellent predators, and particularly like feeding caterpillars and spiders to their developing young. They are also pollinators, and you can often find them rooting around inside flowers for pollen and nectar.
Of course, wasps can build nests in dangerous places and those need to be dealt with from time to time. I try to keep an eye out for the queens when they start building their initial "seed" nests in the spring. Before the nest gets large and any of the workers grow, they are pretty vulnerable, and the queens aren't very aggressive either (generally). You can basically just sweep the nest away without harming her (or while she's out foraging), and she'll find another spot.
Just beware the hidden nests hanging under a leaf or on a branch in your garden!
Wasps are beautiful, complex creatures.
All this came about while we were cleaning things up a bit in the garden prepping for Fall. Weeding after these rains is super easy and good to take advantage of. It's a great time to pull all the little weeds (mostly straggler daisy on our property) growing in the pea gravel.