Paper Wasps build nests in sheltered areas and expand their colonies in the summer. In fall, the colony will disband. All the males and unmated females will die. Mated females (queens) will seek shelter from the elements, resting under leaves or underneath bark. In spring, the wasps will begin new colonies. A queen (foundress) will usually build a new nest from masticated wood mixed with saliva.
In some species, old nests may be utilized but only by a low percentage of foundresses. Using old nests would save energy, but the nest might contain pathogens detrimental to the colony. In some species, a new colony can be initiated by multiple foundresses. Multiple foundresses are all sisters who were in the same colony the previous fall. Paper wasps can recognize their sisters, but how they do this is not clear.
Jerry Lynn Allen, Kate Schulze-Kellman and George J. Gamboa. Clumping Patterns during Overwintering in the Paper Wasp, Polistes exclamans: Effects of Relatedness. Journal of the Kansas Entomological Society, Vol. 55, No. 1 (Jan., 1982), pp. 97-100.