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European Paper Wasp (Polistes dominula)


Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the European Paper Wasp.




The non-aggressive European Paper Wasp has started replacing native species in some states and provinces.



 Updated: 1/16/2020; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ¬©www.InsectIdentification.org




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.


General Characteristics
Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers
Insect antennae icon
Flying insect icon
Insect stinger icon


Taxonomic Hierarchy
Species Breakdown
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Hymenoptera
        Family: Vespidae [ View More ]
          Genus: Polistes [ View More ]
            Species: dominula
Identifying Information
Size, Colors, Descriptors
Scientific Name: Polistes dominula
Category: Bee, Ant, Wasp and Similar
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: black; yellow
Descriptors: stinging; flying; paper nests; yellowjacket-like; orange antennae
Relative Size Comparison
Lo: 0mm | Hi: 0mm
Territorial Reach (A-to-Z)
U.S., Canada, and Mexico
Alabama
Alaska
Arizona
Arkansas
California
Colorado
Connecticut
Delaware
Florida
Georgia
Hawaii
Idaho
Illinois
Indiana
Iowa
Kansas
Kentucky
Louisiana
Maine
Maryland
Massachusetts
Michigan
Minnesota
Mississippi
Missouri
Montana
Nebraska
Nevada
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
North Carolina
North Dakota
Ohio
Oklahoma
Oregon
Pennsylvania
Rhode Island
South Carolina
South Dakota
Tennessee
Texas
Utah
Vermont
Virginia
Washington
West Virginia
Wisconsin
Wyoming
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Alberta
British Columbia
Manitoba
New Brunswick
Newfoundland and Labrador
Nova Scotia
Ontario
Prince Edward Island
Quebec
Saskatchewan
Mexican National Flag Graphic
Mexico
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.
Territorial Map
U.S., Canada, and Mexico
Alaska  
Hawaii  
Prince Edward Is.  
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Territory map graphic of the country of Mexico
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Ant, Bee, and Wasp Anatomy
Graphic showing basic anatomy of both a bee and an ant insect
1
Antennae: Ants and Bees both have a pair of antennae on the head that senses their surroundings.
2
Head: The head contains the insect's compound eyes, antennae, and mandibles.
3
Thorax: Contains various vital parts such as the aorta and nervous system.
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Abdomen: Contains various organs including the heart, gut, venom glands, and anus.
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Legs: Ants and Bees have three pairs of legs attached to the thorax (center-body section).
NOTE: Ants, Bees, & Wasps are part of the Hymenoptera order because they share many similarities.