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Photo#126795
Polistes dominula

Polistes dominula
Salem, Marion County, Oregon, USA
July 1, 2007

Variation in Polistes dominula
I have one female of this species from Guelph, Ontario which lacks the yellow spots on the scutum. Yellow spots on tergum 2 are present. I ran it through the key of European Polistes and it is in fact P. dominula. I have never seen this colour variant again.

 
But this one female has (tiny) yellow spots on the scutum...
And at the same time complete humeral bands on the pronotum, while spots of tergum 2 are much smaller than the space between them. This is what I meant by saying such a combination does not fit at all with P. dominula, despite great variation in this species.
I guess your Ontario specimen had (ot has, if you still have it in collection) only poorly developped humeral bands, and widely separated yellow spots on mesoscutellum too (while they are virtually confleuent here, which is classical for P. nimpha, P. associa and P. chinensis).

 
More on variation
Richard, I see what you mean now. The fact that the yellow stripes of the hind margin of the pronotum are connected to the yellow stripe of the pronotal carina is indeed unusual, especially in such a dark specimen. In Ontario only a small percentage show this pronotal pattern, but it occurs only in wasps with generally well developed yellow markings (i.e. larger spots on scutum and T2). Maybe we are up to something here... Entomologists in the area should keep a watchful eye on Polistes (s.s.). In North America we had a similar case with Ancistrocerus gazella, which was confused with the also introduced and quite similar A. parietum for nearly half a century.

Something of a mystery
Such a melanistic gastral color pattern is quite exceptional in P. dominula, but common in other Eurasian species like P. nimpha and P. chinensis. Moreover, thorax color pattern fits much better with these two species (which differ mainly by size, but are otherwise virtually alike) than with P. dominula.
A thorough investigation in this Oregon region could reserve some surprise. Facial color pattern, and color of the last urosternite of such aberrant specimens are necessary to settle the matter.

European paper wasp.
This is a specimen of Polistes dominula, albeit a very dark (melanistic) individual.

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