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Northern Paper Wasp (Polistes fuscatus)


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

 Updated: 9/5/2017; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ¬©www.InsectIdentification.org




The very social Northern Paper Wasp can make a nest in unusual and unexpected places, requiring only a bit of wood of get started.



Northern Paper Wasps are most commonly found in the Midwest states. They are likely to build nests near humans as that is where a lot of wood can be found (homes, barns, sheds, fences, firewood, landscaping, etc.). The wasps use wood to help create their nest.

The primary queen is first to aggressively defend her nest and her oldest workers will join her in that effort. People and animals that disturb nests may be stung multiple times as wasps do not die after one sting (like honeybees do). Aside from possibly suffering from painful stings, Northern Paper Wasps actually do a great job of removing plant-devouring caterpillars from gardens. The adults eat them and will also use them to feed to their larvae when they hatch. They are so effective at this pest control that they are welcome sights in organic gardens since their presence negates the need for chemical pesticides.

This particular species of paper wasp contains multiple fertile females for a short time, though one queen dominates all of them. She hatches just before winter and quickly mates with males before hibernating. In the spring, she establishes her nest by laying her eggs. Most of these are workers that are sterile. Fertile females and males are usually born in late summer and mate before they overwinter and establish their own nests the next spring. Once these fertile females hatch, though, they quickly come to understand their position in the social ranking. The primary queen eats any eggs that are not her own. She tells them apart by using a chemical to 'tag' her own eggs and she avoids them. This way, she quashes any attempts to usurp her authority while she's still living. She, her workers and any males do not survive past autumn.

A study was done to see what role facial recognition plays in the socialization of this species. Northern Paper Wasps can tell the difference between their own species and other wasps in the same genus (cousins). They become physically aggressive toward them and attack them to protect their nest. It was a novel discovery for an insect species.




Taxonomic Hierarchy
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Hymenoptera
        Family: Vespidae
          Genus: Polistes
            Species: fuscatus
Identifying Information
Scientific Name: Polistes fuscatus
Category: Bee, Ant, Wasp and Similar
Size (Adult; Length): 15mm to 21mm (0.59in to 0.82in)
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: yellow, red, black
Descriptors: flying, stinging, striped, spotted, banded, aggressive, social,
Territorial Map
Alaska  
Hawaii  
Prince Edward Is.  
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Territory map graphic of the country of Mexico
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Territorial Reach (A-to-Z)
Alabama
Alaska
Arizona
Arkansas
California
Colorado
Connecticut
Delware
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
Canadian National Flag Graphic
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. 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
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 and Wasps are part of the Hymenoptera order because they share many similarities.