vespinae

3

7/7/17                                Paper Wasp-  Polistes 

Class Insecta (Insects)
Order Hymenoptera (Ants, Bees, Wasps and Sawflies)
No Taxon (Aculeata - Ants, Bees and Stinging Wasps)
Superfamily Vespoidea (Yellowjackets and Hornets, Paper Wasps; Potter, Mason and Pollen Wasps and allies)
Family Vespidae (Yellowjackets and Hornets, Paper Wasps; Potter, Mason and Pollen Wasps)
Subfamily Polistinae (Paper Wasps)
Genus Polistes
Other Common Names
Paper Wasp, Paper Nest Wasp (any member of genus), Northern Paper Wasp, Golden Paper Wasp (both for P. fuscatus), Red Wasp (P. annularis or carolina), Common Paper Nest Wasp (P. exclamans), Texas Paper Wasp (P. apachus)
Explanation of Names
Polistes Latreille 1802
Probably from Greek polistes (πολιστης)- “founder of a city”
Numbers
Arnett, p. 591, lists 18 spp. (1)
Nearctica.com lists 19 spp.
We have 19 spp. in the guide plus 2 undescribed spp.
Size
13-25 mm
Identification
For an online key to the 11 species occurring in the northeast see the Identification Atlas of the Vespidae of the northeastern Nearctic region. (2)

Large social wasps with long legs, usually brown, yellow markings typically less extensive than yellow jackets and hornets (Vespinae). Visit flowers. Build distinctive paper nests attached to a surface by a stalk. No outer covering of cells as in the Vespinae.

Males have curly antennae and yellow faces, exception being P. annularis males, which have red faces just like females. Range
Much of North America.
Habitat
Fields, woodlands, etc. Often build nests under eaves.
Season
Early spring to late fall (in warm areas like Florida year-round). Only workers early in season–males are going to appear late summer to fall (earlier in the south). Females overwinter, in P. annularis also males.
Food
Take nectar and juice from ripe fruit. Predatory on other insects (predominantly caterpillars) to feed larvae.
Life Cycle
Semi-social wasps. Unlike social (eusocial) wasps, where workers are sterile females, in Polistes all females are potential breeders. (See comments below for details.) Fertilized queens overwinter in crevices or under bark. In spring they build a nest and the colony builds up over the summer. At first, only workers (sterile females) are produced. Mature colonies have up to 30 adults. A young queen is the sole survivor of the colony. (I am presuming this queen disperses to find an unrelated male on flowers in the fall.)In at least one species (P. carolina and/or P. annularis), both sexes overwinter in the nest, in hollow trees or logs. 
Not as aggressive as Hornets, Yellowjackets. May be considered beneficial to gardeners because of predation on herbivorous insects.