W*H*Y Wednesday: Golden Paper Wasp
As its common name suggests, the Golden Paper Wasp (Polistes aurifer) is distinguished by its golden yellow color, primarily on the head, abdomen, antennae, legs and wings. It commonly will have black markings on the head and abdomen and often rust-colored markings as well. As with other paper wasp species, the long back legs dangle down when a Golden Paper Wasp is flying.
Two links we found from different photographers in Arizona show different coloration for this wasp. The first shows an all-over golden yellow color (which could be a queen), and the second shows significant rust-colored markings for this species.
The highlighted portion of this graphic shows that this Golden Paper Wasp is found mainly in the Western half of the U.S. and Hawaii:
Habits: Golden Paper Wasps are active during the day and rest on the nest at night. Adult Golden Paper Wasps feed on sugar and nectar-like food. Larvae eat protein that is gathered and chewed by adult wasps that prey mostly on caterpillars. Colonies last one year, with new queens overwintering to make new nests the following spring.
Golden Paper Wasp nests: Queens begin forming nests from wood and live plant fibers in the spring. As with most species of paper wasp, the nests are a single paper-like comb of open hexagonal cells. Nests are oriented downwards and can contain up to 200 cells, with 20-30 adult wasps. They are relatively small in size and typically found in higher, sheltered locations.
Nature toward humans: Golden Paper Wasps are not aggressive, so there is little threat of swarming. Wasps will sting if handled or if the nest is disturbed. It is important to note that nests can often be found in areas of human traffic, substantially increasing the chances of accidentally disturbing hidden nests.
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