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Red Wasps (Polistes carolina and Polistes perplexus)

These two species are nearly identical. P. perplexus tends to have more black markings on its thorax than that of P. carolina. In addition to thorax markings, observation of the nesting habits can be an effective means of distinguishing between the two species.

Appearance:

Red wasps are named for their overall rusty red coloration. They are rather large, at one inch in length.

Habits:

Red Wasps adult workers feed on sugary nectar and collect live prey to feed nest larvae. Caterpillars appear to be a preferred food source. Red wasps have also been known to attack cicadas.

Nests:

The Red Wasp species is known to have some of the largest nests among Paper Wasps. Queens begin forming nests from wood and live plant fibers in the spring. Like other Paper Wasp species, Red Wasps create nests resembling an upside-down umbrella and exposed octagonal cells.

The P. carolina Red Wasp usually chooses exposed habitats for nesting, especially under roof eaves and in old tires. The P. perplexus Red Wasp is more likely to nest in sheltered natural settings such as hollow trees and wooden structures. They are also known to build nests inside warehouses.

Nature toward humans:

Like many Paper Wasp species, Red Wasps are typically docile, but will become aggressive when provoked or when the nest is disturbed. Anecdotal evidence suggests that Red Wasp stings feel more painful than stings from other Paper Wasp species.

Other Paper Wasp species

Hornets

Yellowjackets

Images
Gaster patterns on abdomen: Polistes carolina on left, P.perplexus on right.
 
Red wasp (Polistes carolina)
 Red wasp (Polistes perplexus)
 
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