Vespidae (Vespid Wasps) These medium to large wasps may be light brown, reddish brown, or black with yellow markings, especially around the face and on the abdomen. At rest, their wings appear pleated. These wasps exhibit varying degrees of sociality. The Polistes spp. (Paper Wasps) construct only small clusters of brood cells from paper (chewed plant material), while Vespula and Dolichovespula spp. (Yellow Jackets and Hornets) construct large spheroid nests from the same kind of material. These wasps bring back a variety of insects back to the nest (with hornets providing regurgitated food to their larvae). They have a reputation of being aggressive around their hives. There is a subfamily of the Vespidae that consists of solitary wasps, which will be discussed next. Eumeninae (Eumenine Wasps): Eumenine wasps are rather stout, medium-sized, brown with cream or yellow markings. They make mud-lined nests in the ground, or make pot-shaped nests from mud on the twigs of shrubs and small trees, or construct nests in wood cavities. Eumenine wasps attack caterpillars of moths, and carry them back to their nests as a food source for their larvae. Some species also prey on beetle grubs in the ground. Eumenine wasps are also frequent visitors of wildflowers.
The Vespidae of the northeastern Nearctic region are reviewed to include 92 established and four adventitious species. Six undescribed species (two each in Ancistrocerus, Euodynerus and Polistes) are recognised for the first time. Three former subspecies, Euodynerus blakeanus Cameron (subspecies of E. foraminatus de Saussure), Ancistrocerus albophaleratus de Saussure (subspecies of A. catskill de Saussure) and A. albolacteus Bequaert (subspecies of A. adiabatus de Saussure) are re-instated as or elevated to good species. Parancistrocerus vogti (Krombein) is synonymized with P. fulvipes (de Saussure). A brief introduction to the morphology, biology and distribution of Vespidae is given. Keys to subfamilies, genera and species are provided, and illustrated with 60 photographic plates (437 images) showing most diagnostic characters. All species are illustrated on 287 separate plates by means of (i) a set of standard photographs of pinned specimens (habitus lateral and dorsal, head of male and female; 537 images), and, where available, (ii) photographs of live specimens in the field (99 images). The variation (especially colour) of most species is described in detail and supplemented with brief information on distribution and biology. Twenty-two species (including five adventitious species) are recorded for the first time from Canada and numerous new state records for the U.S. are given. Euodynerus blakeanus, a taxon previously known only from Texas, is recorded for the first time from the northeastern Nearctic (New Jersey, Maryland, West Virginia) and several midwestern and southeastern states (Kansas, Missouri, North Carolina). The occurrence of E. pratensis in the northeast (recorded from Ontario) is considered doubtful. New data on the nest sites of ten Eumeninae species is provided (Ancistrocerus albophaleratus, A. catskill, A. unifasciatus, Eumenes verticalis, Euodynerus auranus, E. planitarsis, Parancistrocerus leionotus, Parazumia symmorpha, Stenodynerus anormis, S. kennicottianus). Morphological and other scientific terms are explained in an appendix.
Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD) Stats Specimen Records:6372 Specimens with Sequences:5167 Specimens with Barcodes:4881 Species:547 Species With Barcodes:472 Public Records:1744 Public Species:273 Public BINs:263
The Vespidae are a large (nearly 5000 species), diverse, cosmopolitan family of wasps, including nearly all the known eusocial wasps (such as Polistes fuscatus, Polistes annularis, and Vespula germanica) and many solitary wasps. Each social wasp colony includes a queen and a number of female workers with varying degrees of sterility relative to the queen. In temperate social species, colonies usually only last one year, dying at the onset of winter. New queens and males (drones) are produced towards the end of the summer, and after mating, the queens hibernate over winter in cracks or other sheltered locations. The nests of most species are constructed out of mud, but polistines and vespines use plant fibers, chewed to form a sort of paper (also true of some stenogastrines). Many species are pollen vectors contributing to the pollination of several plants, being potential or even effective pollinators, while others are notable predators of pest insect species.
In Polistinae and Vespinae, rather than consuming prey directly, prey are masticated and fed to the larvae, and the larvae, in return, produce a clear liquid (with high amino acid content) which the adults consume; the exact amino acid composition varies considerably among species, but it is considered to contribute substantially to adult nutrition.
Paper wasps are 0.7 to 1.0 inch (1.8 to 2.5 cm) long wasps that gather fibers from dead wood and plant stems, which they mix with saliva, and use to construct water-resistant nests made of gray or brown papery material. Paper wasps are also sometimes called umbrella wasps, due to the distinctive design of their nests.
The nests of most true paper wasps are characterized by having open combs with cells for brood rearing, and a 'petiole', or constricted stalk, that anchors the nest. Paper wasps secrete a chemical which repels ants, which they spread around the base of the anchor to prevent the loss of eggs or brood.
Most social wasps of the family Vespidae make nests from paper, but some stenogastrine species, such as Liostenogaster flavolineata, use mud. A small group of eusocialcrabronid wasps, of the genus Microstigmus (the only eusocial wasps outside the family Vespidae), also constructs nests out of chewed plant fibers, though the nest consistency is quite different from those of true paper wasps, due to the absence of wood fibers, and the use of silk to bind the fibers.
Nests can be found in sheltered areas, such as the eaves of a house, the branches of a tree, on the end of an open pipe, or on an old clothesline. Some species, such as Ropalidia romandi, will vary their nest architecture depending on where they build their nest.
Three species of Polistes are obligate social parasites, and have lost the ability to build their own nests, and are sometimes referred to as "cuckoo paper wasps". They rely on the nests of their hosts to raise their brood.
Unlike yellowjackets and hornets, which can be very aggressive, polistine paper wasps will generally only attack if they themselves or their nest are threatened. Since their territoriality can lead to attacks on people, and because their stings are quite painful and can produce a potentially fatal anaphylactic reaction in some individuals, nests in human-inhabited areas may present an unacceptable hazard.
Paper wasp on a spider lily leaf - they are considered beneficial by gardeners.
Most wasps are beneficial in their natural habitat, and are critically important in natural biocontrol. Paper wasps feed on nectar and other insects, including caterpillars, flies, and beetlelarvae. Because they are a known pollinator and feed on known garden pests, paper wasps are often considered to be beneficial by gardeners.
Recent research has discovered paper wasps have facial recognition abilities comparable to humans. One recent study conducted at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor showed paper wasps have the same facial recognition abilities common to humans or chimps.
"Faces are extremely important to species such as humans", said the study coauthor Michael Sheehan, a Ph.D. candidate at the university. "Studies show that when you look at a face, your brain treats it in a totally different way than it does other images," he said. "It's just the way the brain processes the image of a face, and it turns out that these paper wasps do the same thing."
The study consisted of a series of tests on the Polistes fuscatus species of paper wasp. This particular species is unique in that it has extremely variable facial patterns from member to member. Sheehan and evolutionary biologist Elizabeth Tibbetts placed individual wasps into a T-shaped maze, with one image shown at each end of the top T arm. Images varied from caterpillars, simple geometric patterns, and computer-altered wasp faces to pictures of a genuine paper wasp faces. These images were interchanged randomly during testing.
According to Sheehan, whenever the wasp in the maze chose the side of the T arm with the correct picture, it would get a reward, in this case a safety zone. Though images were always changed, "one particular image was always associated with the safety zone," Sheehan explained. Once the wasps associated the right image with the safety zone, they were able to choose the correct image and thus get to the safety zone essentially every time after. This suggests that the paper wasps' brains are tuned to recognize faces of their own species—as with humans.
"Wasps and humans have independently evolved similar and very specialized face-learning mechanisms, despite the fact that everything about the way we see and the way our brains are structured is different," Sheehan said. "That's surprising and sort of bizarre." The unique, distinct faces of paper wasps, as well as the wasps' ability to recognize and remember each other's faces, are likely tied to the insects' multicolony social structure, Sheehan added. "They have multiple queens and they all want to reproduce—they all want to be the most dominant. So being able to recognize each other helps them understand who's already beaten whom, who has higher ranking in the hierarchy, and this helps to keep the peace."
Recent research conducted by scientists of University of Granada and University of Almeria has shown that the size of the body and color intensity of the body can be used as a measurement to find out the amount of toxic ability of each paper wasp. The toxin of paper wasps is highly toxic to predatory mammals like wolves and cats, as well as birds of prey. The paper wasps with high color intensity and large body produce lethal amount of toxin against other animals.
^Matthews, R. W.; Starr, C. K. (1984). "Microstigmus comes Wasps have a Method of Nest Construction Unique Among Social Insects". Biotropica 16 (1): 55–58. doi:10.2307/2387895.
^Yamane, Soichi; Ito, Yosiaki (1994). "Nest Architecture of the Australian Paper Wasp Ropalidia Romandi Cabeti , With a Note on its Developmental Process (Hymenoptera: Vespidae)". Psyche 101 (3-4). doi:10.1155/1994/92839.
^Dapporto L, Cervo R, Sledge MF, Turillazzi S (2004) "Rank integration in dominance hierarchies of host colonies by the paper wasp social parasite Polistes sulcifer (Hymenoptera, Vespidae)". J Insect Physiol 50 :217–223