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Polistes dominula


European Paper Wasp

Synonym(s): paper wasp
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Vespidae


Photographer: Whitney Cranshaw
Source: Colorado State University

Description

Adult Description: The European Paper Wasp (Polistes dominula) is a generally black insect marked with yellow. They are fairly slender-bodied insects with a distinct constriction of the body between the thorax and abdomen.
The European paper wasp is superficially similar to and commonly mistaken for various yellowjackets (Vespula spp.). Several yellowjacket species are native to the U.S. and have historically been the most significant stinging insects in the country. A somewhat blunter, more compact body form distinguishes yellowjackets from the European paper wasp. Also, the long hind legs of paper wasps tend to trail below when the insects are in flight. Perhaps most striking, the European paper wasp has bright orange antennae, something no native wasp possesses.

Larva Description: The queen deposits small, elongated eggs (one to a cell) that hatch in several days. She will feed her young larvae masticated caterpillars and other insects. After the first brood of larvae mature and emerge as worker females, the queen will limit her activity to laying eggs to expand the number of workers. The workers assume the duties of food collection, nest construction, and colony defense. With optimal temperatures and a plentiful food source, the larvae complete their development and become adult wasps in as little as 40 days.

Host Plant: None

Ecological Threat: It appears that this introduction has had an adverse impact on the native species of Polistes. The apparent reduction of indigenous Polistes will undoubtedly result in a change in the faunal balance. It is unclear what the consequences will be. Some entomologists suspect that the large numbers of P. dominula will adversely affect the species of desirable insects (i.e., butterflies).

Biology: Fertilized queens overwinter in protected areas such as the bark of dead trees, in hollow trees, under siding, in walls of unoccupied homes, and begin new colonies each spring.

History: Polistes dominula was first discovered near Boston, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, during the late 1970s. Since then, the wasp has been recorded from Maine, Vermont, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan. It has recently been discovered in California and Washington. Interestingly, there has been some confusion with the scientific name of the European Paper Wasp. The correct name is Polistes dominula, although it is often seen as P. dominulus. This is due to confusion of the Latin specific epithet; the correct specific epithet "dominula" is the diminutive form of the word "Domina" which means mistress in Latin and is indeclinable. So, those who report the name as P. dominulus have tried to change the declination the specific epithet, and have done so incorrectly.

U.S. Habitat: Like indigenous paper wasps, the European paper wasp can be found building nests around homes, especially around the roofs of houses. Eaves, gutters, soffits, overhangs, balconies, etc. should be checked as they are prime areas in which paper wasp nests can be found.

Distribution

Native Origin: In its native region, P. dominula is the most abundant paper wasp in the countries around the Mediterranean. It is also found in southern Europe, northern Africa, the Middle East, and eastward into China.

U.S. Present: The European Paper Wasp has established populations in: Maine, Vermont, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan. It has recently been discovered in California and Washington. Also has been established in a few Canadian Provinces

TEXAS:

Not yet established in Texas.

Distribution:

Resembles/Alternatives

Physically resembles common yellowjackets, especially in color scheme. However, the body of P. dominula resembles that of other paper wasps, noted by the thin "waist" anterior to the large abdomen. Also, the European paper wasp has bright orange antennae, something local wasps do not possess. Nests resemble those of common paper wasps.

Management

Every attempt should be made to limit suitable nest sites. Repair holes in walls, caulk cracks in soffits and eaves, and screen vents and louvers. Nests made early in the season by founding queens are easier to eliminate before workers are produced. During this period it is easy to knock down exposed nests and kill the queen. Nests that have several workers can be treated with a wasp and hornet spray. These sprays produce a stream of insecticides that can shoot up to 20 feet from the nozzle. Treatments should be made at night when all the workers and the queen are in the nest. Those nests located within eaves and soffits can be treated by applying an insecticidal dust to the openings of the voids. Blow the dust into the opening, taking care not to breathe dust that becomes airborne. Select a dust that is labeled for this type of application. Appropriate dusters available include bulb dusters and plunger or pump dusters. Pest control firms also provide services to control paper wasps.

SEARCH Online

Google Search: Polistes dominula
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NatureServe Explorer: Polistes dominula
Bugwood Network Images: Polistes dominula

Text References

Buck, Matthias, Stephen A. Marshall, David K. B. Cheung. (2008). Identification Atlas of the Vespidae (Hymenoptera, Aculeata) of the Northeastern Nearctic Region. Canadian Journal of Arthropod Identification.

Hester, Louis. (2010). Polistes dominula (Christ, 1791) (Hymenoptera: Vespidae: Polistinae) Found in South Dakota, U.S.A. Insect Mundi A Journal of World Insect Systematics.

Internet Sources:

http://ento.psu.edu
http://www.biology.ualberta.ca
http://www.agf.gov.bc.ca
http://www.biology.ualberta.ca

Experts:
Mike Merchant - m-merchant@tamu.edu - Texas A&M University

Data Source

Last Updated: 2011-09-21 by Amber Bartelt - Sam Houston State University
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