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. Unlike the wasps we usually call yellowjackets, this species is not yellow. Its larger size and black and ivory coloration make it easy to distinguish as a distinct type of social wasp.