Friday, August 7, 2009


I haven't had a chance to do much collecting, what with medical school starting and all, so I'll pull one out of the old collection box. On campus, there are a seemingly endless number of paper wasps of some kind, so I shall do an entry about the family of which they are a member. Paper wasps, in this case Polistes dominula, are members of Vespidae, which includes paper wasps, yellow jackets, hornets, mason wasps, and potter wasps. These insects are very common and well-known, most being black and yellow. The social vespids, such as the paper wasp, build a nest out of a papery material that results from the chewed up wood and foliage of the insect. They feed the larvae on insects and other carrion that is scavanged.

Hymenoptera; Vespoidea; Vespidae; Polistinae; Polistes dominula
Common Name: European Paper Wasp

The subfamily Polistinae contains eusocial vespids including paper wasps. The three genera are Polistes, Mischocyttaris, and Brachygastra. Some literature describes two other genera: Polybia and Ropalidiini. One method of identifying the European Paper Wasp is by its largely orange antennae, distinct among Vespidae. Also, to differentiate it from the familiar yellow jackets (genus Vespula) by its longer legs which hang noticeably when it flies.


  1. Do you know where i may be able to get a paper wasp specimen - like the one shown in this post - I am looking for a few for an art project

  2. Where are you in the country? These little guy are pretty common out in California where I am. Mostly in the late spring-early fall - just have a picnic in a park and you can usually attract a few. I haven't seen any about yet this year, but you can also look in areas where people have those yellow wasp traps, or put one up yourself, e.g. something like this: