A fairly large wasp that is primarily black, with white or ivory markings on the face, thorax and toward the tip of the abdomen. The wings are translucent dark brown.
In winter after leaf-fall, look up into trees for old nests, which are large, rounded, papery and gray. The nests of this social insect are frequently seen in natural history displays. This species is a type of yellowjacket, but it has a different common name because it's not yellow. Its larger size and black and ivory coloration cause it to be popularly considered a distinct type of social wasp.