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Northern Paper Wasp

Common Name: Northern Paper Wasp.

Scientific Name: Polistes Fuscatus.

What to look for?  An impressive and beautiful wasp! The Northern Paper Wasp has a dark reddish-brown coloring. Their body is segmented by yellow bands. They are very slender. and there is a tiny, constricted waist connecting the broad thorax and abdomen. The head of a Northern Paper Wasp is very pointed, which distinguishes them from yellow jackets. And there is more yellow marking the front of the head of the male. The antennae are quite curved near the tip. When at rest, their wings fold lengthwise, parallel to the body.

Where can they be found at Carillon Stonegate Pond? The Northern Paper Wasp will be active here from May to September. Look for them flying around the water’s edge and your flower garden.

How big are they? The Northern Paper Wasp averages approximately three-fourths of one inch in length.

What are their flight patterns? The Northern Paper Wasp has bursts of speed. And, in flight, the long legs hang noticeably downward.

How else do they behave? The Northern Paper Wasp is a very social type of wasp. They rely on each other for food, shelter creation, childcare, and protection. They become physically aggressive toward outsiders and attack them to protect their nest.

What’s for dinner? Nectar and insects – depending on their point in life cycle! The Northern Paper Wasp feeds mainly on plant nectar from flowers like asters and goldenrods. They are also considered insectivorous because they kill caterpillars and other small insects in order to provide food for developing larvae.

Where do they take up residence? The Northern Paper Wasp is most common in the Midwest, but it’s range extends from the Great Plains to the eastern United States and into southern Canada. They nest in woodlands and savannas. The Northern Paper Wasp is fairly common around our neighborhoods, especially where exposed wood is present and can be used for nest material.

When and where do they breed and nest? The mating season of the Northern Paper Wasp is during the spring and summer. Their lifespan is only one year. The nest has the texture and appearance of paper – hence, their name “paper wasp”! These nests are formed from a paste created by chewing wood. These nests may have more than a hundred hexagonal paper cells to hold eggs and larvae. In the spring, the existing queen establishes her nest by laying her eggs that will develop into new queens. By fall, the existing queen dies as will all worker queens and males. A new queen hatches just before winter and quickly mates with males before hibernating. The new queen emerges in the next spring and the cycle starts again.

Where do they migrate? Northern Paper Wasps do not migrate. The queen hibernates during winter.

Do they make any interesting sounds? No.

Interesting Facts About the Northern Paper Wasp:

  • The life cycle of the Northern Paper Wasp has four stages of development: egg, larva, pupa and adult.

  • Paper wasps typically make small and open-faced hanging nests and you can see the waffled structure of the cells on the exterior.

  • The Northern Paper Wasp is one of the most common wasps in North America with a very steady population; there is no cause to worry about the conservation status of this species.

  • Northern Paper Wasps actually do a great job of removing plant-devouring caterpillars from gardens.

For more information on the Northern Paper Wasp and sources of information used in this blog (these are the several of the sources that I am using to learn as I blog), please visit Iowa State University Bug Guide, University of Michigan Animal Diversity, Canadian Wildlife Federation and Wildlife of North America

The Carillon at Stonegate community is very fortunate to have a variety of wetland, forest and prairie environments conducive to a variety of birds and other wildlife, insects and plants. Our community and the Kane County Forest Preserve do an exceptional job in maintaining this natural environment – both for the benefit of the birds and wildlife and for our residents to enjoy.


Take a hike and see what you can find – and identify!

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