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European Paper Wasp - Polistes dominula - Le poliste gaulois


The European Paper Wasp is completely unlike the other social wasps in France. As well as being the most commonplace with their very small nests which can be found everywhere they have a complex and variable social structure. Natural habitat for nests is open scrub or grasslands but they have adapted readily to human constructions, especially those that provide both shelter and heat. In France this typically under roof tiles, in post boxes, in the bodywork of cars and caravans etc. I even have them regularly under my hive roofs.


Paper wasp nest under a hive roof - France


Diet for their larvae is diverse and they will take a large range of insects giving them a distinct survival advantage in being able to take whatever is available.


The colonies are established by females that have left their natal combs to mate and find new settlements. These “foundresses” use three main methods to establish new colonies. They will build a nest by themselves, find “associate-foundresses” and build a nest together or wait for the original foundress queen from the natal comb to leave the nest and then take it over.



Photo above: Paper wasp nest in a cast iron water pump



Photo above: Suspended Paper wasp nest on bramble.


The dominant females (queens) are the principal egg layers, while the subordinate females ("auxiliaries") primarily forage and do not lay eggs. This is not a permanent situation and if the queen (alpha-female) is removed from the nest for whatever reason the second-most dominant female (beta-female) takes the role of the previous queen.


Photo above: Paper wasp "mashing" plant material.


Males are produced later, and when they start to appear, a few daughters may mate and leave their nest to become foundresses the next season. The colony finaly disperses in the late summer, with only males and future foundresses produced instead of workers, and individuals frequently cluster in groups to overwinter. Hibernation does not usually take place on former nest sites.


Nests are open faced and are never large however they are fiercely defended and the wasps have a particularly nasty sting.


A robust species that is found all over France and of no conservation concern.






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