European Paper Wasps

2007 July 29

Don’t make the ladies angry. You won’t like them when they’re angry.

So, we’ve been tearing down an old outbuilding because it was (a) rotting to the point of being unsafe, and (b) kind of in the way. Friday, I was stripping off shingles to take to the dump, and had gotten to the last bit on the edge of the roof. As I was pulling up on the shingles, I suddenly felt this stabbing pain on the back of my hand, and as I was looking down to see what it was, felt another on my other arm, and one on my shoulder, and . . . .

Anyway, after beating a dignified retreat[1] and waiting for things to settle down, I went back with the camera to see what I had uncovered:


These ladies had built a fine little home in the gap between the boards at the edge of the roof, and I had shifted a board into the middle of it. They didn’t come after me again while being photographed, but they were all sort of . . . eyeing . . . me the whole time. They were . . . suspicious.

These appear to be a different species than the queen yellowjacket that I posted on May 19 (these have a yellow band across the shoulders that she didn’t, and look like they have more black on the abdomen[2]. At any rate, this is the time of year when one gets stung, when the nests are populous and they have a lot of brood to defend.

[1] No, really. There was no running or yelling, and very little flailing of hands in the air, although I did curse a bit. From experience with the beehives, stinging insects are drawn to frantic motions, and slowly moving away actually draws a lot less attention. They generally lay off once you get more than about 20 feet away, and walking 20 feet isn’t that much slower than running the same distance. Of course, I did pick up about half a dozen stings, but regular bee-stings have apparently given some resistance to wasp stings as well, so it stopped hurting in a few minutes.

[3] After some more poking around on Bug Guide, I realized why I wasn’t finding these under the yellow jackets – they aren’t yellow jackets (genus Vespula) at all. Based on the pattern of yellow marks on the thorax, the orange antenna tips, and the style of nest that they built, they appear to be European Paper Wasps, Polistes dominula.

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