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Paper Wasps

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Family : Vespidae
Order : Hymenoptera
Length : 17-18mm

Recognition Marks – Reddish brown; antennae are dark, abdomen dark with the first abdominal segment above narrowly outlined with yellow; tarsi yellow.Habitat – The nests of paper wasp are common on eaves of buildings, ceilings of porches, and other outdoor structures. The larvae and pupae live in the cells of the nest and are completely dependent upon the workers for food. A new colony is established each year by a young queen, the only surviver of the winter.Distribution – Eastern and Southern US, West to Arizona.

Note – There are 15 species of Polistes in the US, most of which live in the arid Southwest. The nest of this species lack an outer paper covering. There is only one comb attached to a support by a rather thin pedicel. Polistine wasps have the greatest diversity of nest structure and social life of all of the Vespidae. The nest of Polistes species are small and simple, while those of other genera have more elaborate nests construction. Nest are made up of wood pulp masticated by the wasps and glued together by their saliva. Number of comb, covers, and sites vary from species to species. Some are built underground by the excavation of soil, but still they are made of paper. Excavation may involve the removal of roots and shoots that interfere with the growth of the nest. The outer covering of the nest, which protects the combs from the effects of the weather, also insulates the colony from extremes of temperature; this is called the envelope. Inside the cells, hexagonal shaped chambers in which live the larvae and pupae as they develop. Pillars support rows of cells within the envelope. Air spaces are necessary for proper ventilation in the nest and an attempt to maintain constant temperature. As the nest grows, older cells no longer in use are filled with fecal material. These cells are sealed off from the rest of the nest to prevent the possibility of the spread of disease. Nest thus can be simple, made up of 10 to 20 cells, or massive nest with over 12,000 cells, with many variations in between – all constructed in approximately 4 months at the most.

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