The Swiss paper wasp, a new species of social Hymenoptera in Central Europe

May 07, 2014
This image shows the newly discovered species, "Polistes helveticus," or the Swiss paper wasp. Credit: Christine Dobler Gross

Swiss scientists have discovered a new species of aculeate wasp, not hidden somewhere in a jungle on a remote continent, but in Central Europe, in a swampy area just a few kilometers from Zurich. The new species named "Polistes helveticus", or the Swiss paper wasp, was described in the open access journal ZooKeys.

Paradoxically, this species has been long known in Central Europe but was confused for decades with a closely related species native to southern Europe. Only after the latter expanded its range to northern Switzerland, possibly following , was the confusion noticed.

Six years ago, the Swiss entomologist Rainer Neumeyer discovered a population of paper wasps in wetlands close to Zurich. He thought that he had found P. bischoffi, a well-known species in Switzerland. But at the same location he found another species which, although quite similar to the first, was unusual and could not be identified with certainty.

Neumeyer contacted scientists Gaston-Denis Guex from the University of Zurich, Hannes Baur from the Natural History Museum of Bern, and Christophe Praz from the University of Neuchatel. Together, the scientists used genetic and morphometric analyses to confirm the coexistence of two distinct species at the locality close to Zurich: a northern taxon, already well known from Central Europe, and a little known taxon mostly distributed in southern Europe.

After reviewing the information on the type material, the scientists came to the conclusion that the southern species was P. bischoffi, described 80 years ago from Sardinia. The northern species was given the name P. helveticus.

This is the Swiss paper wasp, discovered in swampy areas in the heart of Europe. Credit: Christine Dobler Gross

The southern species was not present in northern Switzerland until recently. The confusion was only revealed after P. bischoffi expanded its distribution northwards, possibly following climate change.

Explore further: Argentina yields three new tarantula species

More information: Neumeyer R, Baur H, Guex G-D, Praz C (2014) A new species of the paper wasp genus Polistes (Hymenoptera, Vespidae, Polistinae) in Europe revealed by morphometrics and molecular analyses. ZooKeys 400: 67–118. DOI: 10.3897/zookeys.400.6611

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Argentina yields three new tarantula species

May 07, 2014

A team of scientists from the Universidad de La República, Uruguay discovered three native to northern Argentina new species of the engaging spider group of the tarantulas. The study describing the newly ...

More to biological diversity than meets the eye

Mar 13, 2014

Most of us already imagine the tropics as a place of diversity—a lush region of the globe teeming with a wide variety of exotic plants and animals. But for researchers Andrew Forbes and Marty Condon, there's ...

Recommended for you

Bad reputation of crows demystified

Jan 23, 2015

In literature, crows and ravens arebad omens and are associated with witches. Most people believe they steal, eat other birds' eggs and reduce the populations of other birds. But a new study, which has brought ...

How gerbils orient in the light of the setting sun

Jan 23, 2015

A light brown remains light brown: For gerbils, the fur color of their conspecifics appears identical under different lighting conditions. The ability of color constancy in rodents has been demonstrated for ...

Snack attack: Bears munch on ants and help plants grow

Jan 22, 2015

Tiny ants may seem like an odd food source for black bears, but the protein-packed bugs are a major part of some bears' diets and a crucial part of the food web that not only affects other bugs, but plants too.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.