Currently viewing the category: "Paper Wasps"
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Subject: Identify Wasps
Location: South Central MN
July 30, 2015 7:54 am
Since 2013 I’ve been caring for a large rain garden on Faribault County, MN. The pollinators have been late to return, but now I have several of them and of large size, too. I took some photos yesterday and include three below, which to my untrained eye look like wasps. They have never gone after me, even when I’ve been working in the garden, preferring instead to to move from blossom to blossom.
Image 1 is pictured on the leaf of an achemilla plant. I rarely see this wasp, so for me this was a lucky shot.
Image 2 was a surprise close-up. It looks very much like Image 3 along the abdomen but the head is different in color and markings. To my eye the antennae also differ.
Image 8196 is the most common in my garden. These vary in size from small to as big as my pinky. Right now they are in the large range, approaching thumb size. They are are hefty in weight; blossoms droop when they land on them. They seem to favor milkweed and ratibida (yellow coneflower).
There are a couple others I see now and again, such as the the Great Black and a red version of same with black tip on base of abdomen.
Then there’s one with long legs that trail in flight, though I’ve not been able to capture a photo. Again, I feel safe enough in my garden; I do my weeding thing and they do their thing on the blossoms. I wear a hat and long sleeves with gloves, which I think helps.
Can you identify them? Are they native or exotic?
Thank you.
Signature: Wanda J. Kothlow

Unknown Wasp

Potter Wasp

Goodness Wanda,
There are at least ten times more words in your request than in most of the phrases we generally receive.  We miss the chatty identification requests from days gone by before everyone was able to connect to the internet with cellular telephones and people began to forget how to write.  Your first Wasp is not something we immediately recognize, though we suspect it is a Potter or Mason Wasp.  It looks very similar to this 
Ancistrocerus adiabatus posted to BugGuide.

Paper Wasp

Paper Wasp

Your second Wasp is a Paper Wasp in the genus Polistes, and a quick glance at BugGuide has us believing it is the Northern Paper Wasp,  Polistes fuscatus.  According to BugGuide:  “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)”

Cicada Killer

Cicada Killer

Your hefty behemoth is a magnificent Cicada Killer, and your indication that there is a significant population of them indicates a ready food supply for the larvae.  Female Cicada Killers sting and paralyze Cicadas to provision an underground nest.  There is one generation per year and where they are found, Cicada Killers make seasonal appearances.  None of your wasps are considered aggressive.  Thanks again for your entertaining submission.  Your rain garden sounds like it has a very healthy ecosystem.

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Subject: Friendly wasp nesting in my balcony
Location: Prague, Czech Republic
July 19, 2015 9:00 am
Dear Bugman,
I’d like to know what kind of wasp the one pictured in the attached photos is. Unlike the “common” wasp here in Europe, who is probably the most annoying insect on this planet, these not only keep to themselves, they even look afraid of humans as they clumsily fly away when I get close.
The problem is that they’ve nested underneath my balcony table. Since they always keep their distance, I managed to convince my wife to leave them alone. I hate to harm any form of life. But she’s gonna freak out when she returns from her vacation and realizes that they are spreading and building new nests under the table.
Besides the identification, do you know if:
– These are known to bite easily? From my observations it does not seem to be the case as I’ve bumped into the table several times and passed really close to the nests causing several of them to fly out stunned and they never attacked.
– Is there a product or any other way to “convince” them to move away without harming them? They are building new nests at the moment so I guess they could do it elsewhere if only my balcony table stopped being a welcoming place for them.
Thanks in advance for the identification and any tip in helping my solve this problem without harming the wasps.
Kind regards,
Signature: Pedro

European Paper Wasp Nest

European Paper Wasp Nest

Dear Pedro,
This is the nest of the European Paper Wasp,
Polistes dominula, a common European species.  To the best of our knowledge, this is not an aggressive species, but they may sting in an effort to protect the nest.  According to Animal Diversity Web:  “European paper wasps live in temperate and terrestrial habitats including chaparral, forest and grassland biomes. They reside in urban, suburban, and agricultural locations. They tend to reside close to human civilization because they nest in human structures. They also live in forests and on plants where they can feed and nest. When nesting, they choose spaces created by farm machinery and recreational structures. During winter, impregnated queens reside in protected locations such as within house walls or in hollow trees. These females then create nests in these locations or nearby at the beginning of spring.”  According to Penn State Entomology:  “Before 1981, the European paper wasp was not recorded in North America. In its native region, P. dominula is the most abundant paper wasp in those countries around the Mediterranean. It is also found in southern Europe, northern Africa, the Middle East, and eastward into China.  A highly successful colonizer, this wasp has rapidly increased its distribution in the United States during the past 20 years. Before the introduction of this new species, the northern paper wasp, Polistes fuscatus , was the most frequently encountered species in and around structures in Pennsylvania.”  We cannot think of a feasible means of convincing them to move when they already have an established nest.

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Subject: Insect Nest
Location: Porto Alegre
June 26, 2015 11:50 am
I recently visited the Jardim Botanico de Porto Alegre in Brazil, and I saw this nest up in a tree there. It’s about two feet tall. I’ve looked up both insect and bird nests, and I can’t seem to find a visual match online. It has thorns on it, and there weren’t any other structures like it anywhere, so I don’t think it’s a feature of the tree itself.
Signature: Brynna

What's That Nest???

What’s That Nest???

Dear Brynna,
This nest appears to be made of mud and it appears that it is quite large.  We wish you had estimated its dimensions.  Like you, we would speculate that it was created either by a social insect or a bird.  Our initial search did not produce any results.  Perhaps our Brazilian counterpart, Cesar Crash of Insetologia will have some ideas.

Update:  July 4, 2015
Thanks to a comment from a reader, we were directed to this image of a Paper Wasp Nest on FlickR.

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Subject: Mason wasp? Very cool nesting! (pics)
Location: Austin, TX
June 5, 2015 6:12 pm
Last year on my patio popped up a large paper wasp nest and family. I let em stay because they were never aggressive and far enough away. I never bothered knocking the nest down, and then one day this spring I saw something interesting. There was a wasp returning to the nest. I looked closer and saw it was packing mud in the holes…hmm? It looked really similar to a regular Texas paper wasp, but a little different.
After it left I looked closer and saw a mud packed hole and another she was working on. Inside it looked like little gray and green tree caterpillars/worms. Very cool! During the next weeks/month it made more nests, quite efficient compared to the standard mud pods we see. Also during this time I noticed that the numerous smaller and new for the season paper wasp nests died off, except for one lone wasp now. I would find dead paper wasps 1 or 2 a day on the patio, and eventually their little nests were cut down/disappeared one day.
Today I looked at it, and most of the little mud “caps” were open, and there happened to be a wasp that just emerged hanging there. Wings are small so it can’t have been out too long. Snapped some pics!
Not much of a bug nerd, but I sound like it now! Just found this really interesting and couldn’t find anything about this on the internet at all. On your site here and google, looks like a mason wasp possibly? Ever heard of this behavior?
Signature: Phil

What Wasp is nesting in a Paper Wasp Nest???

Mason Wasp nesting in a Paper Wasp Nest

Dear Phil,
It is our understanding that Paper Wasps do not reuse nests, and we have not heard of any mud nesting wasps using abandoned Paper Wasp nests, nor has our internet research turned up anything in our initial search.  We wish you had a better image of the “recycling” Wasp.  Perhaps one of our readers will be able to add some information.  We will also try to contact Eric Eaton to see if he can provide any information.

Eric Eaton Confirms Mason Wasp
Phil is correct.  This is a mason wasp of some kind.  Many kinds of solitary bees and wasps will use pre-existing cavities as nests, including old mud dauber nests, and, at least occasionally, abandoned paper wasp nests.

Yeah it was hard to get a good angle and keep my arms perfectly still being high up.  I did see one return to the nest yesterday, but it fly off before I could snap a pic.  Looks like another one hatched too.  Looking at more pics on google, I see some that look very similar to a kind of Mason wasp:

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Subject: slowly overcoming my wasp phobia
Location: Missouri, United States
April 16, 2015 10:19 pm
I’m quite proud of myself, this wasp fell out of my hair and onto the ground yesterday and it didn’t look like she (he?) could fly. I watched her fumble around on some weeds for a bit and then I held my hand there and she crawled on.
I was very scared, I’ve had countless bad experiences with wasps. but this went very well and I hope to have good experiences with them more often.
I believe this wasp is in the polistes genus? a paper wasp of some sort?
Signature: Stolz

Paper Wasp

Paper Wasp

Dear Stolz,
Congratulations on your new confidence.  We agree that this is a Paper Wasp in the genus
Polistes, and we thought that perhaps you were not stung because the individual was a male, so we researched how to tell the sexes apart.  According to BugGuide:  “Males have curly antennae and yellow faces, exception being P. annularis males, which have red faces just like females.”  Your individual does not match images of P. annularis posted to BugGuide, so we are presuming your individual is a female.  Your individual resembles the allegedly aggressive Red Wasp, Polistes carolina, that is the subject of many comments on our site, but BugGuide does not list the Red Wasp occurring in Missouri.  Perhaps your individual is the very similar looking Polistes rubiginosus, that according to BugGuide, is reported from Missouri.

Paper Wasp

Paper Wasp

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Subject: Red wasp identification
Location: San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico
March 7, 2015 7:57 am
This red wasp was photographed in San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico in late February. It was in the grass.
Can you help identify it?
Signature: Wasp interest

Probably Paper Wasp

Probably Paper Wasp

We believe this is a Paper Wasp in the genus Polistes, and we have received numerous reports that Red Paper Wasps from Texas are aggressive and have a very painful sting.

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What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination