T.E.R:R.A.I.N - Taranaki Educational Resource: Research, Analysis and Information Network


Wasp (Paper wasp, Tasmanian ) Polistes humilis

Kingdom:   Animalia
Phylum:     Arthropoda
Class:        Insecta
Order:        Hymenoptera
Family:      Vespidae
Subfamily: Polistinae
Genus:       Polistes
Species:     P. humilis
Binomial name: Polistes humilis
Common name: Tasmanian paper wasp, Australian paper wasp, 

Polistes humilis is the only species of the tribe Polistini found in New Zealand after it was accidentally introduced from Australia in the 1880s. This social species of wasp is largely confined to the NorthIsland north of Tauranga and west of Te Kuiti. It is usually found in shrubland and swamps.  In New Zealand it is classed as an unwanted organism because it is in competition with honeybees and native bird species over nectar and honeydew. The adults will also eat fruit. Their larvae can be beneficial as they feed on some pest caterpillars provided by the adults. If a caterpillar is too large to carry the wasp will cut the body up with her sharp mouthparts and carry it back to the larvae in bits.

The adults who live in small colonies of 12 to 20 will readily attack and sting anyone approaching or disturbing their nest. They can deliver painful stings and a cold pack should be used to relieve the pain. If there is evidence of a more severe reaction or the sting victim is known to be allergic to wasp and bee venom, seek immediate medical attention.

Polistes humilis is a slender wasp with long, thin, reddish to brown wings. There are distinct black and reddish-brown bands of colouration on their slender bodies (10mm to 15mmin length). There are some yellow markings on the face. They have unusually long legs (that hang down when they are flying).

They built a 10cm to 12cm diameter nest with multiple hexagonal cells out of grey papery material made from chewed up wood fibre and saliva. The cone-shaped nest hangs by a single attachment point with a short stalk. This is attached to shrubs or man-made structures. An egg laid in each cell which hatches into a grub like larva which are feed by the adults. After a period the cells are sealed and the larvae are left to pupate inside. Most of the adult paper wasps die in winter, with a few hibernating to start new colonies.

  

A Polistes humilis nest. They are usually built them high in a tree. This nest iisd in a coastal tree 'Karo' (Pittosporum crassifolium).