European Paper Wasp Invades Great Lakes
By BOB GROSS
Article courtesy of the Oakland Press
August 3, 2001
European paper wasp (Polistes dominulus) is being seen
in southeast Michigan in large numbers for the first time.
Experts don't know how the foreign wasps made it to the
shores of the United States.
wasp, which was first reported in Cambridge, Mass., in
1980, has several characteristics that may make it more
conspicuous, said Tom Ellis, an entomologist at Michigan
of building a humongous nest with a big colony, they build
a number of smaller ones," he said.
my deck for example. It's about 12 by 16 (feet). At one
time there were probably half a dozen nests in and around
It also can be distinguished from native paper wasps because
it appears "leggier," said Ellis. European paper wasp
nests also resemble a gray ping pong ball - native paper
wasp nests resemble an upside down champagne glass with
a short stem.
All the paper wasps are by nature cavity nesters. When
they can't find a cavity - like a hollow tree - they'll
look for protected sites such as under a deck rail or
All paper wasps are social, forming colonies headed by
a queen, said Ellis, but the Europeans take the trait
to an extreme.
so social that they'll even have two different queens
in the same nest helping each other out," he said. "That's
contrary to most wasps we have in this country."
Wasps, both the natives and the exotics, are also building
toward their population peak at this time of the year,
he said. Roll those factors together, said Ellis, "and
there seems to be a lot more wasps around.
it is, there is probably a lot more wasps around houses."
Unlike the natives, the Europeans seem to have a more
laid-back attitude - they normally don't sting unless
don't seem to be particularly aggressive toward people
like hornets and yellow jackets are," he said.
They also prey extensively on small caterpillars.
of their favorite foods is the caterpillar of the cabbage
moth," said Ellis. "They're that real small, butterfly,
white wings with a black spot on them, that you'll find
hanging around gardens."
The caterpillars, he said, are major pests on cabbage
and related plants such as broccoli and Brussels sprouts.
Ellis also recognizes that some people might feel threatened
by large numbers of stinging insects building nests around
homes. His first advice is to not mess with them, but,
if you must, use an ant spray to kill the yellow and black
adults and the larvae.
you see them crawling around, whack them with a flyswatter,"
So far, he said, the invasion has been fairly benign.
The jury's still out, however, on what the long-term effects
has an up side and a down side, and really we don't know
what the down side is yet because it's new in the country,"