European paper wasp Polistes dominulus, copyright Hans Hillewaert.

Belongs within: Polistinae.

Polistes is a genus of social wasps whose nests usually comprise small paper combs suspended from a peduncle and without an enclosing envelope. In cooler regions, nests are usually begun by a single queen and only fertilised queens hibernate between seasons; in warmer climes, nests may be founded by a swarm of workers with one or more queen (Richards 1978).

Characters (from Richards 1978): Usually larger wasps. Humeri with a keel separating off a narrow, smooth area in front of the first thoracic spiracle. Mesoscutum margined opposite the tegula. Muscle-slit of the propodeum long and narrow, more or less pointed at the top. Second gastral tergite and sternite overlapping, not at all fused.

<==Polistes Latreille 1802 [Polistini] C85
    |--P. (Polistes) C85
    |    |--*P. (P.) gallicus (Linnaeus 1767) [=Vespa gallica] C85
    |    |--P. (P.) chinensis H02
    |    |    |--P. c. chinensis S94
    |    |    `--P. c. antennalis S94
    |    `--P. (P.) dominulus (Christ 1791) [=Vespa dominula] C85
    |--P. (Aphanilopterus Meunier 1888) SK05
    |    `--P. (A.) aterrimus CC85
    |--P. (Gyrostoma Kirby 1828) NK11 [incl. Nygmopolistes Richards 1973 SK05]
    |    |--P. (G.) diabolicus de Saussure 1853 NK11
    |    |--P. (G.) rothneyi Cameron 1900 NK11
    |    |    |--P. r. rothneyi S94
    |    |    `--P. r. iwatai S94
    |    `--P. (G.) tenebricosus Lepeletier 1836 (see below for synonymy) SK05
    |--P. (Megapolistes van der Vecht 1968) C85
    |    |--P. (*M.) olivaceus (DeGeer 1773) C85 (see below for synonymy)
    |    |--P. (M.) balder Kirby 1888 C85
    |    |--P. (M.) erythrinus Holgren 1868 C85
    |    |--P. (M.) facilis Saussure 1853 C85
    |    |--P. (M.) schach (Fabricius 1781) [=Vespa schach] C85
    |    |--P. (M.) semiflavus Holmgren 1868 R78
    |    `--P. (M.) tepidus (Fabricius 1775) C85 [=Vespa tepida C85, P. (Gyrostoma) tepidus NK11]
    |         |--P. t. tepidus [incl. P. malayanus Cameron 1906] C85
    |         |--P. t. arthuri R78
    |         |--P. t. picteti Saussure 1853 C85
    |         |--P. t. religiosus R78
    |         `--P. t. speciosus R78
    |--P. (Polistella Ashmead 1904) C85
    |    |--P. (*P.) manillensis Saussure 1853 C85
    |    |--P. (P.) affinis Gusenleitner 2006 NK11
    |    |--P. (P.) bambusae Richards 1978 R78
    |    |    |--P. b. bambusae R78
    |    |    `--P. b. humboldti Richards 1978 R78
    |    |--P. (P.) bernardii Le Guillou 1841 C85
    |    |    |--P. b. bernardii C85
    |    |    |--P. b. comis Cheesman 1951 R78
    |    |    |--P. b. duplicinctus Richards 1978 C85
    |    |    |--P. b. insulae Richards 1978 C85
    |    |    |--P. b. papuanus Schulz 1904 [=P. marginalis papuanus, P. stigma papuanus] R78
    |    |    `--P. b. richardsi Giordani Soika 1975 C85
    |    |--P. (P.) buruensis Petersen 1990 NK11
    |    |--P. (P.) callimorpha de Saussure 1853 NK11
    |    |--P. (P.) elegans Smith 1859 NK11
    |    |--P. (P.) extraneus Kirby 1883 NK11
    |    |--P. (P.) flavobilineatus NK11
    |    |--P. (P.) horrendus Gusenleitner 2006 NK11
    |    |--P. (P.) humilis (Fabricius 1781) [=Vespa humilis] C85
    |    |    |--P. h. humilis (see below for synonymy) C85
    |    |    |--P. h. centrocontinentalis Giordani Soika 1975 C85
    |    |    `--P. h. synoecus Saussure 1853 (see below for synonymy) C85
    |    |--P. (P.) meadeanus (von Schulthess 1913) NK11
    |    |--P. (P.) multipictus Smith 1860 R78
    |    |--P. (P.) nigerrimus Gusenleitner 2006 NK11
    |    |--P. (P.) nigrifrons Smith 1859 NK11 [=P. (Stenopolistes) nigrifrons R78]
    |    |    |--P. n. nigrifrons R78
    |    |    `--P. n. obdurus Cheesman 1951 R78 [=P. (Stenopolistes) nigrifrons obdurus] R78
    |    |--P. (P.) philippinensis de Saussure 1853 NK11
    |    |--P. (P.) sagittarius de Saussure 1853 [incl. P. sagittarius indonesicus Bequaert 1940] SK05
    |    |--P. (P.) sgarambus Giordani Soika 1975 C85
    |    |--P. (P.) simulatus Smith 1860 NK11
    |    |--P. (P.) stigma (Fabricius 1793) NK11 [=Vespa stigma R78; incl. P. stigma tualenensis Petersen 1987 SK05]
    |    |    |--P. s. stigma R78
    |    |    `--P. s. tamula (Fabricius 1798) R78
    |    |--P. (P.) townsvillensis Giordani Soika 1975 C85
    |    |    |--P. t. townsvillensis C85
    |    |    `--P. t. austrinus Richards 1978 C85
    |    `--P. (P.) variabilis (Fabricius 1781) [=Vespa variabilis] C85
    `--P. (Stenopolistes van der Vecht 1972) C85
         |--P. (*S.) lateritius Smith 1857 C85 [=P. (Polistella) lateritius NK11]
         |--P. (S.) laevigatissimus Giordani Soika 1975 C85
         `--P. (S.) riekii Richards 1978 C85

Polistes incertae sedis:
  P. canadensis B06
  P. cinerascens B06
  P. crinitus B06
  P. cubensis GP05
  P. fasciatus L02
  P. ferreri B06
  P. ferrugineus L02
  P. fulvofasciatus [=Vespa fulvofasciata] L02
  P. fuscatus WD04
  P. hebraeus MS01
  P. instabilis GP05
  P. jadwigae S94
  P. japonicus S94
  P. jokohamae T06
  P. liliaceusculus B06
  P. limai B06
  P. linearis [=Vespa linearis] L02
  P. mandarinus S94
  P. marginalis (Fabricius 1775) [=Vespa marginalis] GS61
    |--P. m. marginalis GS61
    `--P. m. africanus Palisot de Beauvais 1805 [=P. africana] GS61
  P. melanopterus Cameron 1911 SK05
  P. mertoni du Buysson 1913 SK05
  P. metricus HH07
  P. opinabilis YS10
  P. pallipes R13
  P. perplexus OK99
  P. petiolatus L02
  P. ruficornis B06
  P. smithii Saussure 1854 GS61
    |--P. s. smithii GS61
    `--P. s. defectivus Gerstaecker 1871 GS61
  P. snelleni S94
  P. spinolae B06
  P. stotherti Meade-Waldo 1916 R78
  P. subsericeus B06
  P. utakwae Meade-Waldo 1916 SK05
  P. versicolor B06

Polistes (Gyrostoma) tenebricosus Lepeletier 1836 [=P. tenebricosa; incl. P. hoplitus de Saussure 1853, P. tenebricosus hoplitus, P. tenebricosus var. leopoldi Bequaert 1934, P. tenebricosus nigrosericans Bequaert 1940, P. tenebricosus sibuyanensis Bequaert 1940, P. sulcatus Smith 1852, P. tenebricosus sulcatus, P. (*Nygmopolistes) sulcatus] SK05

Polistes (*Megapolistes) olivaceus (DeGeer 1773) C85 [=Vespa olivacea C85, P. (Gyrostoma) olivaceus NK11; incl. V. hebraea Fabricius 1787 R78]

Polistes (Polistella) humilis humilis (Fabricius 1781) [incl. P. humilis pseudoschach Giordani Soika 1975, P. tasmaniensis Saussure 1853, P. tricolor Saussure 1853] C85

Polistes (Polistella) humilis synoecus Saussure 1853 [incl. P. humilis clarior Giordani Soika 1975, P. variabilis reginae Meade-Waldo 1911, P. humilis xanthorrhoicus Giordani Soika 1975] C85

*Type species of generic name indicated


[B06] Brèthes, J. 1906. Véspidos y eumenídidos sudamericanos (nuevo suplemento). Anales del Museo Nacional de Buenos Aires, serie 3, 6: 310–377.

[C85] Cardale, J. C. 1985. Vespoidea and Sphecoidea. In: Walton, D. W. (ed.) Zoological Catalogue of Australia vol. 2. Hymenoptera: Formicoidea, Vespoidea and Sphecoidea pp. 150–303. Australian Government Publishing Service: Canberra.

[CC85] Carpenter, J. M., & J. M. Cumming. 1985. A character analysis of the North American potter wasps (Hymenoptera: Vespidae; Eumeninae). Journal of Natural History 19 (5): 877–916.

[GS61] Giordani Soika, A. 1961. Hymenoptera (Aculeata): Vespidae. In: Hanström, B., P. Brinck & G. Rudebeck (eds) South African Animal Life: Results of the Lund University Expedition in 1950–1951 vol. 8 pp. 440–451. Almqvist & Wiksell: Uppsala.

[GP05] González, J. M., J. Piñango, E. Blanco D. & R. W. Matthews. 2005. On the mass aggregations of Polistes versicolor (Olivier) (Hymenoptera: Vespidae) along the Northern Cordillera of Venezuela, South America. Journal of Hymenoptera Research 14 (1): 15–21.

[H02] Harris, A. 2002. Recent range extensions of some introduced Hymenoptera, with observations. Weta 24: 20–21.

[HH07] Hines, H. M., J. H. Hunt, T. K. O'Connor, J. J. Gillespie & S. A. Cameron. 2007. Multigene phylogeny reveals eusociality evolved twice in vespid wasps. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA 104 (9): 3295–3299.

[L02] Latreille, P. A. 1802. Histoire Naturelle, générale et particulière des crustacés et des insectes vol. 3. Familles naturelles des genres. F. Dufart: Paris.

[MS01] Mocsáry, A., & V. Szépligeti. 1901. Hymenopterák [Hymenopteren]. In: Horváth, G. (ed.) Zichy Jenő Gróf Harmadik Ázsiai Utazása [Dritte Asiatische Forschungsreise des Grafen Eugen Zichy] vol. 2. Zichy Jenő Gróf Harmadik Ázsiai Utazásának Állattani Eredményei [Zoologische Ergebnisse der Dritten Asiatischen Forschungsreise des Grafen Eugen Zichy] pp. 121–169. Victor Hornyánszky: Budapest, and Karl W. Hierseman: Leipzig.

[NK11] Nicholas, A. S., J. Kojima, M. Y. Ruslan, M. Fauzi & A. B. Idris. 2011. A list of social vespid wasps (Hymenoptera: Vespidae) from Kuala Lompat, Krau Wildlife Reserve, Pahang, peninsular Malaysia. Serangga 16 (1): 59–74.

[OK99] OConnor, B. M., & J. S. H. Klompen. 1999. Phylogenetic perspectives on mite-insect associations: the evolution of acarinaria. In: Needham, G. R., R. Mitchell, D. J. Horn & W. C. Welbourn (eds) Acarology IX vol. 2. Symposia pp. 63–71. Ohio Biological Survey: Columbus (Ohio).

[R13] Reuter, O. M. 1913. Lebensgewohnheiten und Instinkte der Insekten bis zum Erwachen der sozialen Instinkte. R. Friedländer & Sohn: Berlin.

[R78] Richards, O. W. 1978. The Australian social wasps (Hymenoptera: Vespidae). Australian Journal of Zoology, Supplementary Series 61: 1–132.

[SK05] Saito, F., J. Kojima, R. Ubaidillah & S. Hartini. 2005. Paper wasps of the genus Polistes in eastern Lesser Sunda Islands (Hymenoptera: Vespidae). Journal of Hymenoptera Research 14 (1): 102–114.

[S94] Shimizu, A. 1994. Phylogeny and classification of the family Pompilidae (Hymenoptera). Tokyo Metropolitan University Bulletin of Natural History 2: 1–142.

[T06] Tsurusaki, N. 2006. Geographic variation of chromosomes and somatic morphology in the Japanese polymorphic species Leiobunum hiraiwai (Arachnida: Opiliones: Sclerosomatidae). Zootaxa 1325: 157–190.

[WD04] Wardhaugh, C. W., & R. K. Didham. 2004. The effect of introduced wasp (Vespula vulgaris, Hymenoptera: Vespidae) predation on the dispersive life history stages of beech scale insects (Ultracoelostoma spp., Homoptera: Margarodidae). New Zealand Entomologist 27: 91–101.

[YS10] Yefremova, Z. A., & I. S. Strakhova. 2010. A review of the species of the genus Elasmus Westwood (Hymenoptera, Eulophidae) from Russia and neighboring countries. Entomologicheskoe Obozrenie 89 (3): 634–661.

Last updated: 12 May 2020.


  1. Christian Schmid-Egger The current name is Polistes dominula :-)

    1. You sent me on a bit of a quest with this one, Ruud. I had come across the 'dominula' vs 'dominulus' point before but not in a formal publication, and my general philosophy on this site has been to defer to the authorities cited as much as practicable. I've finally found a source that actually cites the need for correction in Castro & Dvorak (2009); I'll be integrating this source and making the correction in a future update of this entry.


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