Subject: Wasps or Hornets in winter
January 28, 2016 7:58 am
A couple days ago, I was walking in my front yard and I saw a wasp/hornet/yellow jacket walking on top of the snow…
I live in central Connecticut, so it seemed a bit odd because I’ve never seen that before in my 44 years here.
Is this normal?
We suspect this unusual sighting of a Paper Wasp in the genus Polistes in the snow is related to the unseasonably warm weather experienced by much of the eastern U.S. through the end of 2015. We are relatively certain this is an introduced European Paper Wasp, Polistes dominula, which is described on BugGuide as: “No other species of Vespidae has mostly orange antennae.” Because of the snow, your images were underexposed, but if the images are lightened, the antennae do appear to be orange. BugGuide also notes: “Only females are able to overwinter. Some ‘workers’ of previous season are able to survive and act as auxiliary females for the foundresses, provided the quiescent phase has been short enough. ” You did not indicate what the temperatures were like on the day you took the images, but we are suspecting it was a warmer day, with temperatures above freezing, despite snow still being on the ground. If the late start to winter allowed the nest to remain active considerably later in the season, and this individual survived a short “quiescent phase”, then it is possible she set out from the nest on a warm winter day. BugGuide also notes: “An introduced species from Eurasia, often mistaken for a yellow jacket. First reported in North America by G.C. Eickwort in 1978 near Boston, Massachusetts. There are reports of it replacing native species of wasps in some areas,” which is prompting us to tag this as an Invasive Exotic, especially since the BugGuide range in quite extensive in North America considering the species has been reported here for less than 40 years.