Australian paper wasp
Australian paper wasp
Other common names: Tasmanian paper wasp, common paper wasp
Photo courtesy of: Landcare Research
This species is established in New Zealand.
The Australian paper wasp Polistes humilis has a small head, with medium sized eyes and medium length antennae. The body is slender, with a very narrow waist and the length is about 1-1.5cm. There are two pairs of brown-tinted wings, with the first pair larger. The abdomen has some yellow/orange bands, but is mainly black. Paper wasps are longer and more slender than common and German wasps. When paper wasps fly they do not hold their legs close to their body. Seeing a wasp flying with "long dangly legs" identifies it as a paper wasp.
Paper wasps have a simple social structure, with only females and males (as opposed to queens and workers). All help with food gathering, nest building (paper nests made under tree branches and in the eaves of houses), and producing and rearing young.
Australian paper wasps can deliver painful stings, but are not as aggressive as European Wasps. They normally only attack humans if their nest is disturbed. If stings are multiple, a more severe systemic reaction (anaphylaxis) may occur, but this is relatively uncommon.
Paper wasps rely heavily on live butterflies and moth larvae for their protein sources. Paper wasps may attack native moths and butterflies and modify the structure of the invertebrate community, and compete with other insectivorous fauna. They may also compete with nectar-feeders at flowers and fruit, and for honeydew possibly affecting plant pollination.
In rural and garden environments, the paper wasps could have beneficial as well as adverse effects. While they are disliked because they prey upon monarch butterfly (Danaus plexipus) larvae they also take larvae of moth and butterfly pest species. They have been viewed as valuable biocontrol agents of cabbage white butterfly cabbages in Japan
The Australian paper wasp is native to Australia and was the first social wasp to become established in New Zealand, and was abundant in Northland in the 1880s. It probably reached New Zealand by stowing away on boats trading across the Tasman Sea.
Australian paper wasps are concentrated mainly in the Auckland and Northland regions, but isolated samples were also collected in Gisborne and the Waikato. Their distribution is probably restricted by climate. Australian paper wasps are found mainly in built-up areas.
Management of this species is similar for the common wasp. Biological and Chemical control methods have been developed to control wasp populations including the use of a parasitoid and pathogens, poison bait and manual removal of all nests within an area.
Page last updated: 18 June 2008