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Macao Paper Wasp (Polistes olivaceus)


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



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Image Credit: Evan S., taken in VA
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The highly social and large Macao Paper Wasp has been making big moves across the ocean.



Updated: 07/07/2021; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
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 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.




General Characteristics
Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers
Flying insect icon
Spiny / Spiky insect icon
Insect stinger icon
Striped or banded insect icon


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Taxonomic Hierarchy
Species Breakdown
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Hymenoptera
        Family: Vespidae
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          Genus: Polistes
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            Species: olivaceus
Identifying Information
Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Polistes olivaceus
Other Name(s): Yellow Paper Wasp
Category: Bee, Ant, Wasp and Similar
Size (Adult; Length): 18mm to 24mm (0.70" to 0.94")
Colorwheel Graphic 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
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Relative Size Comparison
Typical Size Between 18mm (0.7in) and 24mm (0.9in)
Lo: 18mm
Md: 21mm
Hi: 24mm
Territorial Map*
U.S., Canada, and Mexico
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Alaska  
Hawaii  
Prince Edward Is.  
* MAP NOTES: The territorial heat map above showcases (in red) the states and territories of North America where the Macao Paper Wasp may be found (but is not limited to). This sort of data is useful when attempting to see concentrations of particular species across the continent as well as revealing possible migratory patterns over a species' given lifespan. Some insects are naturally confined by environment, weather, mating habits, food resources and the like while others see widespread expansion across most, or all, of North America. States/Territories shown above are a general indicator of areas inhabited by the Macao Paper Wasp. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.

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