Thursday, January 22, 2009

The wasp that cleaned out the caterpillars

Before you go thinking that honeybees mentioned in the last post are the reason you have so little caterpillar damage in your Front Range vegetable garden, remember European Paper Wasp. This wasp moved into Colorado in 2000 and has rapidly colonized Front Range landscapes. It is found on the West Slope but not generally in the mountains.

European paper wasps rear their young on live insects. They have become one of the most important natural controls of many kinds of Colorado garden insects. Most commonly they feed on caterpillars, including the larvae of hornworms and cabbageworms in the Colorado vegetable garden. On trees and shrubs tent caterpillars and sawfly larvae are commonly taken prey.

The European paper wasp is a black insect marked with yellow that is commonly mistaken for western yellowjacket. European paper wasp is slim in comparison to the somewhat blunter, more compact body form of yellowjackets. The long hind legs of paper wasps also tend to trail below when the insects are in flight unlike yellowjackets. They do not produce the nuisance problems for outdoor dining that are typical of western yellowjacket.

Check the Colorado State University Extension website for additional information and more photos of European paper wasp.

[European paper wasp photo credit: Whitney Cranshaw, Colorado State University,]

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