European Paper wasps in France

Paper wasp nest under a hive roof

Understandably most people are confused about the difference between what are often called Paper wasps and the other colony forming wasps.

Paper wasps, (Polistinae), make relatively small open faced nests in places that are hot such as under tiles, in poly tunnels, letter boxes, empty garden pots and some hanging in the open. This is one obvious way that they are totally unlike the other colony forming wasps and hornets, (Vespinae), that make larger enclosed nests in the ground, in cavities, in sheds, or hanging in bushes, hedgerows and trees.

Paper wasp nest on bramble

The Polistinae are what are commonly called Paper wasps.

Nest construction varies with species but they are always made using a single tier or level and are open fronted without a protective envelope. which means that they have little control of the nest temperature and rely on exterior conditions. Polistine wasps exhibit a “low-level energetic” lifestyle spending a lot of time nearly immobile at their nests. They prey on other insects and collect nectar for their own energetic demand and for provision of the brood. They can be fiercely protective of their nests if disturbed but otherwise they have no interest in humans.

French species

Polistes gallicus
often known as the French paper wasp is widely distributed throughout western Europe but not currently the UK. More common in countries close to the Mediterranean Sea.

Polistes dominula often known as the European paper wasp. Hot, open environments and urbanized areas. More common in the southern half of France.

Polistes bischoffi and Polistes helveticus western Europe but not common in France where they are mainly Mediterranean and Eastern France.

Polistes nimpha All over France preferring open habitats.

Polistes biglumis inhabits mainly mountain ranges in southern Europe, principally Italy and France

Cuckoo paper wasps

Then we have the Pseudopolistes that are also paper wasps. However they are kleptoparasites or “cuckoo wasps” that aren't able to make their own nests and they take over the nests of different species of regular Paper wasp. These have now been reassigned as belonging to the genus Polistes.

Polistes semenowi was Polistes sulcifer

Polistes atrimandibularis

Polistes austroccidentalis