Polistes-dominulus, European paper wasp (53637 bytes)

Case of the Disappearing Caterpillars Solved

By Carl Wilson, Colorado University Cooperative Extension, Horticulture

TherePolistes dominulus, European paper wasp nest (35316 bytes) often seems to be good with the bad and that is the case with the European paper wasp (Polistes dominulus). These Western yellow jacket look-alikes have moved into many parts of the state including the Denver Metro area in the last 5 years. They are an aggressive predator of caterpillars, beetle larvae and other suitable prey. Once captured, they chew up prey to feed their young through the open ends of the cells of their paper nests. They have almost taken away children's fun of finding a large tomato hornworm.
Cabbageworm and corn earworm are other insects paper wasps have helped to control. On the negative side, paper wasps make their nests in all sorts of spots around building soffits, windows and siding and aggressively defend them by stinging people casually passing by.

Photos: Whitney Cranshaw

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Date last revised: 01/05/2010