Entomology (Study of Bugs)/Wasps


QUESTION: Hello.  I am in east Vancouver, WA and there have been a large number of wasps, some multiple varieties, here this summer.  The ones I'm wondering about have off-white faces without stripes on their faces.  They have the usual slender bodies with gold stripes.  They haven't been confrontational and like to just sit for long periods in the slider of my screen door.  They are completely uninterested in the yellow jacket or WHY traps and are around primarily when it is warmer.  I know some of that is usual, but am curious as haven't seen these particular wasps before and just because they haven't been confrontational, they still make me nervous.
Thank you.

ANSWER: Leanna:

Without seeing an image of the creature in question, it is very difficult to make an identification.  However, I grew up in Portland, Oregon, and know a little bit about the insect fauna there....

I suspect that you are referring to the European Paper Wasp, Polistes dominula .  More information here:


The link above also includes many other links to other websites with even more information.  This species arrived in the Pacific Northwest long after I left, but it has become perhaps the most common paper wasp in urban areas there.

Paper wasps prey on caterpillars and other soft-bodied insects that they feed to the larvae back in the nest, but the adult wasps are attracted to flowers for nectar, aphid colonies and scale insects for the "honeydew" those insects secrete, and to spilled soda and other sugary substances.

Be careful around concealed spaces where the wasps may be nesting (unused water faucets, birdhouses, overturned flower pots, etc).  Otherwise, there is really nothing to fear.


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QUESTION: Thank you for your response and information.  I'm afraid I don't think these look that much like those in the photos.  The gold stripes on the ones here are gold/coppery and not yellow and their faces do not have any stripes and are not bright white.  I managed to get a couple of photos that I'm afraid are not wonderful, but all I have available is the camera on my phone; I've attached them so hopefully they will help.  They may still be some variant of a paper wasp though.  I appreciate your time.
Thank you.


Ok, the same basic information applies to these, which are also paper wasps, just a different genus and species:




The second link is from the blog I write.  The specimens in your images are males, which are colored a little differently than the females in some instances.


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Eric R. Eaton


I answer insect and spider identification questions ONLY. Attach images if possible. No "what bit me?", "what do I feed this bug in captivity?", or science fair project questions please. NO TECHNICAL QUESTIONS ABOUT INSECT PHYSIOLOGY.


Principal author, Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America. Professional entomologist employed previously at University of Massachusetts, Chase Studio, Inc., and Cincinnati Zoo; contract work for West Virginia Department of Natural Resources, Smithsonian Institution, and Portland (Oregon) State University.

Author, Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America, Missouri Conservationist magazine, Ranger Rick, Birds & Blooms, Timeline (journal of the Ohio Historical Society). I have contributed to several books as well.

Oregon State University, undergraduate major in entomology, did not receive degree.

Awards and Honors
One of the top 50 experts in all categories for AllExperts.com, 2009.

Past/Present Clients
Principal author of the Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America, Smithsonian Institution (contract), Cincinnati Zoo (employer), Portland State University (contract), Chase Studio, Inc (employer), Arkansas Museum of Discovery (guest speaker). Currently seeking speaking engagements, leadership roles at nature festivals, workshops, and ecotours.

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