Other Common Names
Dark Paper Wasp
Common Paper Wasp (also variably used to refer to other species including P. exclamans and P. dorsalis)
Golden Paper Wasp (seemingly refers specifically to its former subspecies, P. aurifer
Synonyms and other taxonomic changes
Polistes fuscatus (Fabricius)
Explanation of Names
fuscatus — Latin for "dark, smoky-colored"
A hypervariable paper wasp in color and pattern; the separation of P. fuscatus
from related species remains the greatest taxonomic problem of the northeastern Vespidae fauna. (see Canadidan Journal of Arthropod Identification
Male distinguished from other members of the P. fuscatus-group by complete darkening of (3–)4–5 apical flagellomeres (including ventral and anterior surface, apex of flagellomere XI sometimes paler).
In other species only the dorsal surface of the apical flagellomeres is darkened whereas tyloids and the anterior surfaces are essentially the same light colour (yellow-orange) as the basal flagellomeres.
Females from northern localities (including the vast majority of Canadian specimens) identified by largely black colouration of whole body (with or without well-developed yellow markings).
Problematic are many specimens from southern half of range, where extent of ferruginous markings often much increased. Females with ferruginous head and mesosoma, dark metasoma and reduced yellow markings resemble P. metricus
, whereas females with largely ferruginous body and well developed yellow markings resemble P. bellicosus
. [above five sentences adapted from Canadidan Journal of Arthropod Identification
Note that previous keys such as Richards, 1978(1)
, do not properly separate P. fuscatus
from related species.
Nova Scotia west to probably Saskatchewan, south to Texas and Florida.
also Bermuda, Jamaica, Barbados, introduced to Cape Verde Is. and Ascension I. (see Canadidan Journal of Arthropod Identification
Nests in woodlands and savannas. It is fairly common around human habitations, especially where exposed wood is present and can be used for nest material. (Evans, 1963; Milne, 1980)
Adult P. fuscatus feed mainly on plant nectar. The species is considered insectivorous because it kills caterpillars and other small insects in order to provide food for developing larvae. Foragers collect various prey insects to feed to the larvae. The wasp then malaxates, or softens the food and in doing so absorbs most of the liquid in the food. This solid portion is given to older larvae and the liquid is regurgitated to be fed to younger larvae. (Turillazzi and West-Eberhard, 1996)
Lifespan is approximately one year, or the time it takes a queen to develop and to mate. Larvae from eggs that are laid during the summer are well fed because of abundant food, and are capable of becoming queens. These eggs hatch before fall and the resulting offspring hibernate during fall and winter. The new queens emerge in the spring to begin nests and lay eggs. By fall, after laying eggs that will develop into new queens, these queens die. All accompanying workers and males die with the queen. (Evans, 1963; Unknown, 2001)
has unusually variable color patterns, allowing individual wasps to recognize each other's faces. (Sheehan and Tibbetts 2011
of nest construction and development