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
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
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