W*H*Y Wednesday: European Paper Wasp
Today begins a new series, "W*H*Y Wednesday", where we focus on one of the 20 species of insects caught in the soon-to-be-released W*H*Y Trap for Wasps, Hornets & Yellowjackets. The conclusion of this series should coincide with the early availability of the W*H*Y Trap at your local retailers.
We start with a transplant from Europe that is making its mark in a growing portion of the U.S.: the European Paper Wasp, Polistes dominulus. This type of paper wasp is considered a non-native or invasive species.
The highlighted portion of this graphic shows where the European Paper Wasp can presently be found in the U.S.:
Appearance: With their yellow and black markings, European Paper Wasps are frequently mistaken for yellowjackets. As with all paper wasps, their waist is very thin, and their hind legs dangle down when they fly. European Paper Wasps are distinguished by their orange antennae.
Habits: European Paper Wasps are active during the day and rest on the nest at night. Adult paper wasps feed on sugar and nectar-like food. Larvae eat protein that is gathered and chewed by adult wasps as they prey on other insects. Colonies last one year, with new queens overwintering to make new nests the following spring.
European Paper Wasp nests: Their nest resembles an upside-down umbrella shape, and the open cells can be seen from below. Queens begin forming nests from wood and live plant fibers in the spring. Most European Paper Wasp nests are a single layer of hexagonal brood cells. These wasps prefer to nest in sheltered locations, but with much greater propensity to use manmade structures than other wasps -- structures such as eaves, decks, patio furniture, outdoor garbage containers, barbecue grills, mailboxes, birdhouses and planter pots.
Nature toward humans: It's unusual for European Paper Wasps to attack unless humans approach too close to a foraging wasp or nest. They can inflict painful stings when they do attack, and like yellowjackets, European Paper Wasps can sting multiple times. It is important to note that because of this species' tendency to nest within manmade structures, European Paper Wasps are more likely to be found in areas of human traffic, increasing the chances of accidentally disturbing a hidden nest.
Compared to other species, European Paper Wasps nest earlier in the spring, in a wider variety of nest sites, most of them sheltered. They are also more aggressive and feed on a wider variety of insects. For these reasons, the European Paper Wasp numbers are growing in the U.S. and out-competing native wasps.
The European Paper Wasp is most common in countries around the Mediterranean. It's also reportedly found in southern Europe, northern Africa, the Middle East and China.
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