Sunday, July 24, 2011

European Visitors

New York City has seen record-breaking heat this week, but the crowds of summer tourists seem undaunted. Despite the 98-feels-like-102 degree temperature, there were European visitors on the Brooklyn Heights Promenade on Saturday morning -- both human and insect kind. One of them was Polistes dominula, the invasive European Paper Wasp.

The European Paper Wasp, Polistes dominula

This pretty black and yellow wasp with brown cellophane-like wings was first noticed around Boston about thirty years ago. It has since spread throughout the northeast and was recently seen in California. It likes urban settings, including New York City.

It seems to be shouldering out our native Northern Paper Wasp, Polistes fuscatus. And it preys on caterpillars, which is bad news for urban butterflies. As if that were not bad enough, it builds papery nests in crevices and hollows around human dwellings, like in unused pipes or inside birdhouses or porch lights; it's possible to intrude on a nest without noticing and get stung.

So the European Paper Wasp is an unfortunate import. I felt nevertheless sympathetic as the temperature pushed upward and I stood in the heat watching a wasp pause to drink from a small pool of water caught on a leaf.

1 comment:

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