The highly social and large Macao Paper Wasp has been making big moves across the ocean.
Polistes olivaceus goes by a few common names in English. In Australia, it is referred to as the Macao Paper Wasp. In other regions, it is called the Yellow Paper Wasp. Because there are native paper wasps in North America that are also yellow, we defer to the Australian common name to reduce confusion for those who find scientific names difficult. This colorful paper wasp is bigger than most others in the Polistes genus. The mostly yellow body has yellow antennae and yellow legs that may have a blush of red by the 'hip' joint. The yellow thorax has three black lines on it that are boxed in at the bottom. A band of red separates this from another, smaller area with a central black lines flanked by red patches. Just below the constricted waist is a patch of red; after that, abdominal banding begins. A thin black band is followed by a thick red band, and then alternating sets of curvy black lines and red bands. A dark line runs down the middle of the abdomen, crossing all of these bands.
Originally from Asia, this species has been found on the Cocos Islands of western Australia, in Hawaii, and may have traveled farther. It is an aggressive species that delivers a painful sting. This has led to efforts to eradicate, or at least contain, populations of this wasp in its non-native habitats. Wide berth should be given and it may be prudent to contact professional exterminators to remove nests. Gray nests are created using a pulpy mash of dead wood and stems mixed with saliva. The nests are huge, as are the congregations building and caring for them. Look for them nestled in branches of trees and shrubs. Do not engage with this species. If you suspect this non-native wasp is in your area, contact your county's extension agent. It may help confirm identification and track the spread of this wasp.
Scientific Name: Polistes olivaceus
Other Name(s): Yellow Paper Wasp
Bee, Ant, Wasp and Similar
Size (Adult; Length): 18mm to 24mm (0.70in to 0.94in)
Colors: yellow; red; black; orange
Descriptors: stinging; painful; aggressive; large; flying; nest; colorful; multi-colored; wasp; hornet; black red yellow stripes; group; hundreds; exotic; danger
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.