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The European paper wasp, Polistes dominula, is often mistaken for a yellowjacket, which they, with their black and yellow markings, resemble. Paper wasps such as P. dominula can be distinguished from yellowjackets by their very thin waist and legs that hang down as they fly. Polistes dominula is native to and among the most abundantly found social wasp in the Mediterranean region of Europe, Africa and the Middle East. The European paper wasp is thought to have invaded Eastern North America several times in the late 1960-1970s. It is now common in North America and has rapidly spread across the continent, competing with the native paper wasp species, Polistes fuscatus, and possibly threatening other insect species, and some birds, whose nests they like to colonize.

Note on nomenclature: Polistes dominula was originally described in 1791 by Johann Ludwig Christ as Vespa dominula, and later moved to genus Polistes. The species name dominulus, is a noun meaning "little mistress". Following the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature, species epithets which are independent nouns (i.e. not a genative noun) do not change in order to agree with the generic name when a species is re-assigned. For decades, authors have misspelled the species name as dominulus to agree with the masculine Polistes, although the correct species name remains dominula.

(Jacobs 2011; Wikipedia 2011)


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