We live in central New York and these large (1.25") wasps are invading our house pretty regularly. I want to say it's a great black wasp, but the pale yellow striping makes me wonder.

A sample specimen


Confirmed the answer: these have all been female Northern Paper Wasps:

This is almost identical to the wasps I've been seeing

Apparently they can be almost solid black in some communities.

  • $\begingroup$ Do you have a better picture? It would be nice to see more details. I'm pretty sure the great black wasp is all black, but there are several other big wasps that are striped. $\endgroup$
    – picapica
    Commented May 14, 2017 at 15:11
  • $\begingroup$ I'll take one next time they move into my house $\endgroup$ Commented May 15, 2017 at 1:44
  • $\begingroup$ If by "great black wasp" you mean Sphex pensylvanicus (the common name per the Wikipedia page here: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sphex_pensylvanicus); no. The folded forewings visible in the picture are characteristic of the family Vespidae; I'm thinking Polistes, but bugguide.net has seven pages worth of possibilities (starting here: bugguide.net/node/view/572/bgpage?from=0). $\endgroup$
    – user32396
    Commented May 23, 2017 at 16:24

1 Answer 1


This specimen is most likely a Polistes sp. from the Vespidae-family. Some Polistes species are sometimes referred to as paper wasps.

Coloring is not the primary criterion for identification here. The folded wings leave no doubt that it is a wasp from the Vespidae family (which excludes the Great Black Wasp, as suggested in the comments). Since there is only one picture, with not many details, further identification gets more difficult here. Based on my experience, I would guess that it is a Polistes sp. (no way of saying which particular species it is, based on the photo) - this would also be consistent with your observation that they invade your house frequently: Polistes, besides Vespinae (e.g. Yellowjackets), are the only 2 social Vespidae subfamilies, i.e. they live in colonies. Also, Vespinae can be excluded, they have a visible edge at the beginning of their abdomen, which the wasp in your photo doesn't have. This would leave Polistes as the most plausible option.

A detailed view of the head, the legs and the unfolded wings would be necessary for a more specific identification - there are several 100 different Polistes species alone!

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ We've got paper wasps around here. They seem to have stopped poking around...I just hope they're not living in my house somewhere I can't see. $\endgroup$ Commented May 26, 2017 at 23:54

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