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Paper Wasp (Polistinae)

Paper wasp


(Order- Hymenoptera; Family- Vespidae)

Polistinae, male (photo by Saad Ilahe) 

(Kansas: Sedgwick County. Dr. Glen Dey (Grove) Park, 37N 44' 4.7'', 97S 18' 30.9". By the entrance. September 16, 2011.)


Adult Diagnosis: About 22 species of Polistinae are found in North America. Paper Wasps are usually about 1.9-2.54 cm (.75-1 inch) long and have elongated, slender bodies. The abdomen is spindle-shaped, which is joined to the propodeum by slender petiole. Paper wasps have unique coloring because they are brown overall with yellow horizontal markings on head, thorax, and on the bands of the abdomen. When at rest, the forewings of the Paper wasp are folded longitudinally. To differentiate between males and females, the antennas of the Paper wasp can be looked at, as only the males have curled antennae (as pictured). The size of the female may be a bit larger compared to a male. 

Paper Wasp characteristics (from:


Adult Natural History: Paper Wasps are semi-social arthropods and are divided into three castes: workers, queens, and males. The fertilized queen waits out the winter season in habitats like cracks, under tree bark, or cervices in structures. The nesting for Polistinae begins in spring. Sterile workers help build and defend the nest and take care of the young. The eggs are laid singly in cells, which are open on bottom until the larva pupates, and only then are they sealed. The queen stops laying eggs in the late summer and the colony begins to decline. The female offspring of the queen seek overwintering sites in the fall. The rest of the colony does not survive winter. 

Paper Wasp nest (from:


Distribution: The largest abundance of Polistinae is in Northeastern United States. However, several species can also be found in areas of Kansas and tropical areas like Florida. 

Distribution of Polistinae in the United States. Map created by


Habitat: Paper wasps can be found around flowers (particularly goldenrod), woodlands, and fields. They often build nests under eaves. 


Diet: They prey on different insects like flies, beetle larvae, and caterpillars and they feed them to the larvae. Adult Paper wasps feed on nectar. 

Conservation Status: Stable 


The Paper Wasp 



This is a video that is originally done by BBC’s Life in the Undergrowth documentary series and it observes the behavior, relationship, habitat, and diet of a Paper wasp colony. 



Bug Guide: Species Polistinae- Paper Wasps

Brisbane insects-

University of Kentucky Entomology-

Florida Bugs. Paper Wasps photo-

Bedore’s Hiking World. Paper Wasps Nest photo-


Drees, B.M. and John Jackman. 1999. Field Guide to Texas Insects. Gulf Publishing , Houston, TX.

Turillazzi, S. and M.J.West-Eberhard. 2002. Natural History and Evolution of Paper Wasps.Oxford University Press, Oxford, U.K.

Reed, Hal, and S. Vinson. 1979. Nesting ecology of Paper Wasps in a Texas urban area. Journal of Kansas Entomological Society, 52(4): 673-689. 

Submitted by: Saad Ilahe, September 2011




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Generated on 2011. This website is continuously updated.
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