Red Paper Wasp

Polistes carolina

Last updated: December 2, 2022
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff
© Yuttana Joe/Shutterstock.com

The Red Paper wasps are lazy flyers; they occasionally land on people, pets, and objects without noticing them. 

Red Paper Wasp Scientific Classification

Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Arthropoda
Class
Insecta
Order
Hymenoptera
Family
Vespidae
Genus
Polistes
Scientific Name
Polistes carolina

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

Red Paper Wasp Conservation Status

Red Paper Wasp Locations

Red Paper Wasp Locations

Red Paper Wasp Facts

Group Behavior
  • Social
Fun Fact
The Red Paper wasps are lazy flyers; they occasionally land on people, pets, and objects without noticing them. 
Most Distinctive Feature
reddish-brown coloring
Wingspan
0.59–0.98 in
Diet
Herbivore
Lifestyle
  • Social
Favorite Food
flower nectar
Type
wasp
Common Name
red paper wasp
Nesting Location
Prefers to nest in protected spaces

Red Paper Wasp Physical Characteristics

Color
  • Red
Skin Type
Exoskeleton
Lifespan
12-22 days
Length
0.98–1.26 in
Venomous
Yes
Aggression
Medium

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The Red Paper Wasps are lazy flyers; they occasionally land on people, pets, and objects without noticing them. 

Summary

The common name “Red paper wasp” refers to any of two species of red wasps of the same genus. They’re both characterized by their orange-red bodies and black wings. Red wasps are native to the United States of America. They are lazy flyers that occasionally land on people and objects. They’re not aggressive but can sting if they feel threatened.  

Red Paper Wasp Species, Types, and Scientific Name

The red wasp is the common name of two species of insects in the same genus. The first one is Polistes carolina while the other one is Polistes rubiginosus. They both belong to the genus Polistes and are members of a family of vespids known as paper wasps

All red wasps build paper-like nests from a mix of their saliva with dead wood and plant fibers. More than 300 species of paper wasps have been identified worldwide, with 22 of these species in North America. Paper wasps belong to the Order Hymenoptera, a large order of insects with more than 150,000 living species of eusocial and solitary insects, including wasps, bees, and ants

Red wasps are social insects native to the United States. They’re mostly found from Texas to Florida, west of Nebraska, and North of New York. The common name of this wasp is a reference to the reddish-brown coloration of their head and body. 

Appearance: How To Identify Red Paper Wasp

The two species of red wasps, Polistes rubiginosus and P. carolina, are the only large wasps with red coloration in eastern United States. They are usually about 2.5 to 3.2 cm (0.98–1.26 in) in length. They typically have jet black wings with a wingspan of about 15–25 mm. 

People often confuse P. carolina with P. rubiginosus due to their strikingly similar reddish-brown color. They are also found in the same region, which makes identification even more difficult. The main morphological difference between these two species is seen in the side view of their cheek area (their malar). In the P. rubiginosus, this area and their gena are often covered with silvery pubescent hairs, while that of the P. carolina is bare. This distinction only works for the female wasps. 

Red wasps exhibit slight sexual dimorphism. The color of the female is typically more ferruginous (rust color) than the male’s. Also, they have additional markings on their body, including black spots around their eyes and restricted yellow marking on their mandibles. They also have bands on their sternum as well as 

One can also identify Red wasps based on their nest. Like all paper wasps, they make nests from a mix of saliva and vegetation matter. These gray paper-like homes are commonly attached to various structures. P. carolina prefers to nest in protected spaces like the cavity of trees and man-made structures like under bridges, chimneys, roofs, and eaves. 

Habitat: Where to Find Red Paper Wasp

Red Wasps live in various habitats, from urban to suburban environments. Hence, encounters with humans are quite probable. Both species are found in the eastern United States. Their range often overlaps. It covers the Nebraska area to Texas and stretches along the Atlantic coast from New York all the way to Florida. 

The red wasp exists as an adventitious species in other parts of North America including Ontario, Canada, and Bermuda. In places where they’re found, red paper wasps prefer to be in protected areas like hollow trees. Near human settlements, they often make their homes on the underside of roofs and inside storage buildings.

Diet: What Do Red Paper Wasps Eat?

Red Paper Wasps are predators of caterpillars and other insect larvae. While the adults don’t feed on the caterpillars, they often feed it to their own larvae. The wasp is often used as a form of biological control for various species of caterpillars that tend to damage crops. Adults feed on nectar from flowers. They also help to pollinate flowers which makes them valuable garden insects

Prevention: How to Get Rid of Red Paper Wasp

Since red paper wasps tend to nest in sheltered areas close to human settlements, such as under roofs, encounters with them are quite common. They’re social insects, and a single nest can house more than 800 wasps at a time.

Red paper wasps are typically not a cause for concern. They’re not aggressive and are unlikely to sting people. Nesting is also temporary. They are active for about 3 to 4 months, from spring to early fall. The wasps typically die out when the temperature drops and their nest becomes abandoned. Red wasps do not reuse old nests and are unlikely to return to your home. It is safe to remove and destroy an empty nest. 

However, if you do not want to wait for them to leave on their own, you can get attempt to get rid of them using natural repellents and insecticides. However, the best way to eliminate them is by seeking professional help. 

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About the Author

Abdulmumin is a pharmacist and a top-rated freelance writer on Upwork. He can pretty much write on anything that can be researched on the internet. However, he particularly enjoys writing on health, technology and animals. He is inquisitive and currently aspires to become a software engineer. He loves animals, especially horses and would love to have one someday.

Red Paper Wasp FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Are red paper wasps dangerous?

Red paper wasps are naturally unaggressive. However, they only attack when they or their nest feel threatened. Only female wasps can sting. Unlike bees, they can deliver multiple stings without dying.

 

Is a red wasp the same as a paper wasp?

Red paper wasps are a type of paper wasp. The name paper wasps apply to a group of insects known for their ability to construct paper-like nests from a mix of saliva and plant materials. Red paper wasps can be distinguished from other paper wasps by their long, red to reddish-brown bodies and black wings.

 

Will a red wasp sting you for no reason?

No, red paper wasps are not aggressive and won’t attack humans or animals for no reason. They only resort to stinging when they or their nest is threatened. Because this happens when people get close to their nest unknowingly, it sometimes feels like an unprovoked attack.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.

Sources
  1. Wikipedia, Available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polistes_rubiginosus
  2. Wikipedia, Available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polistes_carolina
  3. Texas Insects, Available here: https://texasinsects.tamu.edu/paper-wasp/
  4. Insect Identification, Available here: https://www.insectidentification.org/insect-description.php?identification=Red-Paper-Wasp
  5. University of Florida, Available here: https://entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/MISC/WASPS/Polistes_carolina.htm

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