The non-aggressive European Paper Wasp has started replacing native species in some states and provinces.
Inadvertently brought to North America sometime in or before the 1980's, the European Paper Wasp has since become a common species everywhere. Though it is exotic, its presence is actually considered a good control for problem insects though it tends to replace native species in many areas. Aside from disturbing the nest, this species is considered non-aggressive and does not seek out targets. It is capable of stinging, and will do just that if the nest is under threat. Otherwise, it is not likely to bother people, even at outdoor cookouts. People have actually set up nest boxes for this species in order to benefit from their insect management while removing worry about unknown nesting locations.
This social wasp builds nests using wood pulp and saliva, forming spheres with visible hexagonal cells for eggs. Once a cell is filled with a fertilized egg, it is given an orb-like white cap. When larvae hatch, they are fed chewed up pieces of caterpillars by worker wasps. Workers hunt all kinds of garden pests like cabbageworms, tent caterpillars, hornworms, and sawflies for the growing offspring. New nests are built each year, and activity is highest during the daytime.
The resemblance between European Paper Wasps and yellowjackets is close, and the two different insects are easily mistaken for each other. Orange antennae and a more compact body and abdomen help distinguish this non-aggressive wasp from the larger, very aggressive yellowjacket. Nests also look different in that aggressive yellowjackets cover theirs with a layer of paper while European Paper Wasps leave the cells exposed.
European Paper Wasp adults drink flower nectar and occasionally rotting fruit, but they do not care for sugary drinks, so this is not an insect that ruins picnics. European Paper Wasps are not interested in commercial lures and bait that attracts and kills other types of wasps either. If a nest is discovered in an area where it can be left alone, allowing it remain helps reduce the number of pest insects.
Scientific Name: Polistes dominula
Bee, Ant, Wasp and Similar
Colors: black; yellow
Descriptors: stinging; flying; paper nests; yellowjacket-like; orange antennae
Note: An insect's reach is not limited by lines drawn on a map and therefore species may appear in areas, regions and/or states beyond those listed above as they are driven by environmental factors (such as climate change), available food supplies and mating patterns. Grayed-out selections indicate that the subject in question has not been reported in that particular territory. U.S. states and Canadian provinces / territories are clickable to their respective bug listings.
Ant, Bee, and Wasp Anatomy
Antennae: Ants and Bees both have a pair of antennae on the head that senses their surroundings.
Head: The head contains the insect's compound eyes, antennae, and mandibles.
Thorax: Contains various vital parts such as the aorta and nervous system.
Abdomen: Contains various organs including the heart, gut, venom glands, and anus.
Legs: Ants and Bees have three pairs of legs attached to the thorax (center-body section).
NOTE: Ants, Bees and Wasps are part of the Hymenoptera order because they share many similarities.