Identification, Images, & Information
For Insects, Spiders & Their Kin
For the United States & Canada
Clickable Guide
Moths Butterflies Flies Caterpillars Flies Dragonflies Flies Mantids Cockroaches Bees and Wasps Walkingsticks Earwigs Ants Termites Hoppers and Kin Hoppers and Kin Beetles True Bugs Fleas Grasshoppers and Kin Ticks Spiders Scorpions Centipedes Millipedes

Calendar
Upcoming Events

Information about the 2019 BugGuide Gathering in Louisiana, July 25-27

Discussion, insects and people from the 2018 gathering in Virginia, July 27-29

Photos of insects and people from the 2015 gathering in Wisconsin, July 10-12

Photos of insects and people from the 2014 gathering in Virginia, June 4-7.

Photos of insects and people from the 2013 gathering in Arizona, July 25-28

Photos of insects and people from the 2012 gathering in Alabama

Photos of insects and people from the 2011 gathering in Iowa


TaxonomyBrowse
Info
ImagesLinksBooksData

Species Polistes fuscatus - Northern Paper Wasp

Northern Paper Wasp - Polistes fuscatus - female Wasp Insecticide - Polistes fuscatus - female Northern Paper Wasp (Polistes fuscatus) - Polistes fuscatus - male wasps mating - Polistes fuscatus - male - female Paper Wasps - Polistes fuscatus - female Polistes - but which? - Polistes fuscatus - male Paper Wasp - Polistes fuscatus - male Northern Paper Wasp - Polistes fuscatus - female
Classification
Kingdom Animalia (Animals)
Phylum Arthropoda (Arthropods)
Subphylum Hexapoda (Hexapods)
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 (Paper Wasps)
Species fuscatus (Northern Paper Wasp)
Other Common Names
Golden Paper Wasp, Common Paper Wasp
Explanation of Names
fuscatus — Latin for "dark, smoky-colored"
Size
15 to 21 mm
Identification
Hypervariable 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 (1) do not properly separate P. fuscatus from related species.
Range
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)
Habitat
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)
Food
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)
Life Cycle
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)
Remarks
P. fuscatus has unusually variable color patterns, allowing individual wasps to recognize each other's faces. (Sheehan and Tibbetts 2011)
Works Cited
1.The Social Wasps of the Americas Excluding the Vespinae
Richards, O.W. 1978. British Museum (Natural History).
2.Identification Atlas of the Vespidae (Hymenoptera, Aculeata) of the Northeastern Nearctic Region
Matthias Buck, Stephen A. Marshall, and David K. B. Cheung. 2008. Biological Survey of Canada [Canadian Journal of Arthropod Identification].