Thursday, July 2, 2009
Pictured here are two images of the Paper Wasp---Genus Polistes. They are found throughout the South Eastern United States, up to North Carolina, over to Kansas and south to Texas. They are very common in Missouri. This form is very dark. The abdomen is black and the thorax is reddish-brown. Males have a yellow face and females have a brown face (pictured). Finding them is no problem, in fact they seem to find us. Preferring areas inhabited by humans so that they may use our structures to attach their paper nests from. While guarding the nest these wasps can be intimidating and quite aggressive and most stings will occur near the nest. While away from the nest they seem to be calmer and will generally not sting unless provoked, such as swatting at them, or if they happen to get caught in your clothing. Paper wasps feed on a variety of substances including nectar from various flowers, like the peony pictured above. They also like to feed on caterpillars, flies, and beetle larvae. Females overwinter as mated adults, usually hiding in hollow trees or other secure areas. In the spring they will emerge and begin nest building. To gather material for their unique nest they chew bits of wood and create a pulp-like substance chewing the wood mixed with saliva. This substance is used to form the cells of their unmistakable nests. These nests are found anywhere, often attached to old barns, sheds, homes, garages, even on farm machinery. The female will deposit eggs within each cell of the nest, and they will be tended by other wasps of the hives until they hatch. Once they hatch the young larvae will be taken care of by the "sisters" of the hive. They will be fed nectar, pollen and soft bodied caterpillars when they are older. These females will not breed, instead their sole job is to care for their siblings. Late in the season the queen will lay eggs that are capable of breeding, these new offspring will overwinter as bred adults and the cycle will begin again.