New Zealand Journal of Ecology (1999) 23(1): 11- 19

Abundance of wasps and prey consumption of paper wasps (Hymenoptera, Vespidae : Polistinae) in Northland, New Zealand

Research Article
B. Kay Clapperton  
  1. 49 Margaret Ave, Havelock North, New Zealand

Polistine and vespine wasps were captured in Malaise traps in two fire-modified shrubland habitats of varying canopy height and composition at Lake Ohia, Northland, New Zealand. Prey consumption rates were calculated for the Asian paper wasp (Polistes chinensis antennalis) occupying these two areas of shrubland and a home garden in Whangarei, Northland. The sites were systematically searched for nests and wasp prey determined by intercepting foragers returning to nests. The Asian paper wasp predominated in the Malaise trap samples from the low- growing habitat while the German wasp (Vespula germanica) was more common in the taller vegetation type. The Asian paper wasp was more abundant than the German wasp in the samples in February and early March. Only four Australian paper wasps (Polistes humilis) and no common wasps (Vespula vulgaris) were caught. Asian paper wasps collected an estimated 15 000 prey loads per ha per season from one of the shrubland areas, and 478 000 prey loads per ha per season from the second area. These convert to estimates of 31 and 957 g per ha per season of invertebrate biomass removed by paper wasps from each habitat, respectively. The estimate for the garden site was 79 g per ha per season. Wasp nest densities varied between 20 and 210 nests per hectare. The biomass estimates are similar to average figures calculated for vespine wasps in scrubland and pasture. Both Asian paper wasps and Australian paper wasps preyed mainly on lepidopteran larvae. The cabbage white butterfly (Pieris rapae) was the most commonly collected species. Noctuid species were also well represented. Both male and female Asian paper wasps collected nectar in late March and early April.