Galapagos Species Database

The Galapagos Species Database shares the information about the species from our Natural History Collections.

Polistes versicolor (Oliver, 1791)

Avispa de papel amarilla, Yellow paper wasp

Wasp Nest (Polistes versicolor), Muro de las Lagrimas, Isabela, Galapagos. Photo: Frank Bungartz, CDF, 2008.
Wasp Nest (Polistes versicolor), Muro de las Lagrimas, Isabela, Galapagos. Photo: Frank Bungartz, CDF, 2008.

The predatory, stinging paper wasp is characterized by yellow transparent wings with a black body and yellow bands on the thorax and abdomen. It is a social wasp, and builds hanging paper nests that can hold tens to thousands of individuals along with multiple queens.












Taxon category: Accepted

Taxon origin: Introduced - established


Feeding type: Polyphagous

The yellow paper wasp competes for food with native vertebrates such as finches by feeding on insect larva, mainly Lepidoptera (as cited in Foottit & Adler, 2009), at a rate of 17-154g per ha per day (Langor & Sweeney 2009) along with consuming fruits and flowers.

Trophic role: Omnivorous

Reproduction mode: Exclusively sexual

Distribution origin: South America


Mode of introduction: Accidental

Introduction Pathway: Stowaway

Subpathway: Hitchhiker on transport vehicles/cargo

Introduced status: Naturalized

Invasive status: Invasive

Invasion risk score: Extreme risk

Impact in Galapagos: Estimated to prey on 17-154 grams of insect per hectare per day, competing with insectivorous birds for food. In inhabited areas it often builds its nest on house rafters and inflicts a painful sting to humans if disturbed. It also pollinates plants.

Impact elsewhere: This species is a voracious predator of invertebrates, especially butterflies and moths. It is often used as a natural predator to reduced agricultural pests.

Control History in Galapagos: The municipality carries out some nest removal in inhabited areas. The National Park Service also uses traps. Traps can be made at home, and simply consist of a yellow receptacle filled with water and detergent. The wasps are attracted to the yellow color and then drown in the slippery water.

Year of first record: 1988


Map of specimen collection localities or observation records for this species in our collections database.

Distribution: Santa Cruz, San Cristóbal, Isabela, Floreana, Santiago, Marchena, Pinta, Genovesa, Española, Fernandina, Bartolomé, Champion, Gardner, Daphne Mayor, Pinzón, Plaza Sur, Plaza Norte, Rábida, Santa Fé, Seymour Norte, originally from South America.


  • Peck, S.B. Heraty, J., Landry, B. & Sinclair, B.J. (1998) Introduced insect fauna of an oceanic archipelago: The Galápagos Islands, Ecuador. Am. Entomol. 44: 218-237.
  • Causton, C.E. Sevilla, C. (2008) Latest Records of Introduced Invertebrates in Galapagos and Measures to control them. Galapagos Report 2006-2007, CDF, GNP and INGALA, Puerto Ayora, Galapagos, Ecuador, p. 142-145.
  • Peck, S.B. (1994) Aerial dispersal of insects between and to islands in the Galápagos archipelago, Ecuador. Annls. Entomol. Soc. Am. 87(2): 218-224.
  • Roque-Albelo, L. Causton, C. (1999) El niño and introduced insects in the galápagos islands: different dispersal strategies, similar effects. Noticias de Galápagos 60: 30-36.
  • Peck, S.B. (1996) Origin and development of an insect fauna on a remote archipelago: The Galápagos Islands, Ecuador. In: Keast A., Miller S.E. (eds.): The origin and evolution of Pacific Island biotas, New Guinea to eastern Polynesia: patterns and processes. SPB Academic Publishing, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, p. 91-122.
  • Peck, S.B. (1994) Sea-surface (Pleuston) transport of insects between islands in the Galápagos archipelago, Ecuador. Annls. Entomol. Soc. Am. 87(5): 576-582.
  • Abedrabbo, S. (1991) Nueva Avispa Introducida en las Islas. Carta Informativa 31: 4.
  • McMullen, C.K. (2011) Pollination of the heterostylos Galápagos native, Cordia lutea (Boraginaceae) Plant Syst Evol (2012) 298:569-579
  • Foottit, R.G. Adler, P.H. (2009) Insect Biodiversity: Science and Society, John Wiley & Sons. pp. 494.
  • Langlor, D.W. Sweeney, J. (2009) Ecological Impacts of Non-Native Invertebrates and Fungi on Terrestrial Ecosystems Springer. 66 pp.
  • Óscar Mollá Bhushan Shrestha (2020) First record of Hirsutella saussurei in the Galápagos Islands and first evidence parasitizing the invasive paper wasp, Polistes versicolor Revista Brasileira de Entomologia 64(2):e20200031, 2020 https://
  • Lasso, T. L. Baez, O. (1997) Ecologia e impacto de la avispa introducida (Polistes versicolor) (Vespidae, Hymenoptera) en las islas Floreana y Santa Cruz, Galapagos-Ecuador [Tesis de Grado, Universidad Central del Ecuador]