Identification, Images, & Information
For Insects, Spiders & Their Kin
For the United States & Canada

Genus Polistes - Paper Wasps

Polistes fuscatus during routine maintenance - Polistes fuscatus - female Paper wasp? - Polistes dominula - male Paper Wasp - Polistes fuscatus - male Which Polistes? - Polistes metricus - female red wasp of some kind - Polistes metricus Polistes on magnolia leaf - Polistes metricus Which wasp - Polistes fuscatus - male Polistes Wasp - Polistes fuscatus - male
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)
Explanation of Names
Polistes Latreille 1802
'founder of a city'
24 spp. in our area(1), >90 in the New World, >200 total(2)
13-25 mm
key to the 11 northeastern spp.(1)
Large social wasps with long legs, usually brown, yellow markings typically less extensive than yellow jackets and hornets (Vespinae). 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 (P. annularis males have red faces just like females).

variant with no yellow lines on scutum (much like red variant of P. aurifer)

♀ Red color variant

♂♀ ♀ Variant with yellow band on abdomen


Early spring to late fall (in warm areas 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.
Take nectar and juice from ripe fruit. Predatory on other insects (predominantly caterpillars) to feed larvae.
Life Cycle
Semi-social wasps, all females are potential breeders. 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.
Not as aggressive as Hornets or Yellowjackets. Often build nests under eaves. May be considered beneficial to gardeners (feed on herbivorous insects).
Parasitoids include Pachysomoides (Ichneumonidae)
Works Cited
1.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].
2.Vespidae (Insecta: Hymenoptera) of Puerto Rico, West Indies
Carpenter J.M., Genaro J.A. 2011. Insecta Mundi 0202: 1-35.