May 2002. Members requested references on the identification of Polistes olivaceus, as well as P macaensis and P fuscatus. The photo was thought to be P fuscatus aurifer. P olivaceus is a larger, more uniformly yellow wasp.
The literature on Cook Islands insects lists P olivaceus and P macaensis. The species recorded from various parts of the Pacific are:
- Polistes olivaceus (De Geer)
- Polistes fuscatus (Fabricius) — also recorded as P fuscatus aurifer Saussure
- Polistes macaensis (Fabricius)
It was noted in Walker and Deitz (1979) that Polistes macaensis is “now”  considered as a junior synonym of Polistes olivaceus.
Polistes olivaceus is recorded from China, Hawaii, India, “Indochina”, Madagascar, Marianas, Marquesas, Mauritius, New Caledonia, Samoa, Seychelles, Tahiti, Tonga and Zanzibar. It has occurred in New Zealand as a vagrant at Waikawa.
Polistes fuscatus aurifer (the photograph) – P fuscatus is a North American species – there are several websites for this species. Possibiy, aurifer is from northwest USA. It has been found in Hawaii and Cook Islands.
Polistes macaensis is known from China, Macao and Hawaii.
In Papua New Guinea, there are the following in the collection (National Agricultural Insect Collection, Port Moresby): P anthunis, P bambusae subsp. bambusae, P comis, P variabilis, P stigma subsp. papuana and P tepidus. There are no records on Polistes olivaceus. There is an ‘old’ reference:
Cheeseman, L.E. 1951b. A collection of Polistes from Papuasia in the British Museum. Ann. Mag. Nat. Hist. ser 12, 4 (46): 982-93.
A website on Paper Wasps is at: www.extento.hawaii.edu/kbase/urban/site/paprwsp.htm.