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Paper Wasps   Polistes spp

The paper wasp is familiar to many home owners because of the open-faced paper nests found frequently hanging under house eaves.  These slender, narrow-waisted wasps are about 0.75 to 1.0 inch long.  They have smoky black wings that are folded lengthwise when at rest.  The body coloration varies with species, although brown with yellow markings on the head and thorax and yellow bands around the abdomen is a commonly seen species. The females will sting; however, they’re quite docile, but will defend their nests.

There are about two dozen species of paper wasps in North America.  Nine species can be found in Florida.

They are social wasps, that is, queens and workers cooperate in caring for the nest.  A typical queen over winters, makes a nest in spring, and rears the first small brood herself.  The offspring will then help the queen to expand the nest and care for the next generation.  They prey on caterpillars and beetle larvae.  The prey is dismembered, pre-chewed, then regurgitated to feed the larvae.  They are common visitors to plants throughout the summer months, feeding on nectar, thus helping to pollinate the flowers.

The images on this page were taken in Deep Creek in Charlotte County.  The bottom two images show wasps sipping nectar on Shrubby False Buttonweed and Slender Flat-topped Goldenrod.