Executioner Wasp (Polistes Carnifex) – Species Profile & Facts

The Executioner wasp has an ominous and very fitting name for its genre. The name stems from the wasp’s feeding behavior which involves killing and macerating various insects and caterpillars to feed its young.

The wasp itself will mostly feed on nectar, but the Executioner larvae need a surplus of protein during their growth phase.

Then you have the insect’s venom, capable of inflicting severe pain over hours and even days on end. This alone makes this wasp one of the most feared in the insect kingdom, and for good reasons.

Today, we will discuss the Executioner wasp’s profile to see what makes this bug special.

How to Recognize Executioner Wasps?

Executioner wasps have a distinct look that separates them from other wasps. They are approximately 1 inch in length and display a full yellow body. They show various shades of yellow on their head, torso, abdomen, and wings.

This coloring makes them stand out, as they lack the typical black stripes common in regular wasps. Take cover or leave the area if you see a yellow wasp with dark yellow or brown stripes. Executioner wasps live in colonies and are rather territorial and aggressive towards intruders. One sting can inflict severe pain for up to 30 minutes, followed by hours or days of itching, irritation, redness, and swelling.

Imagine what dozens or hundreds of stings will do.

How Big do Executioner Wasps Grow?

The wasp will revolve around 1 inch in size. Its size will mostly depend on diet, its subspecies, and gender.

Where are Executioner Wasps Found?

Executioner wasps are endemic to Central and South American, with only occasional sightings in North American areas. The reason for that is that the Executioner wasp prefers humid and warm environments, such as the tropical forests around Brazil, Paraguay, or Argentina.

You can still find smaller colonies throughout North American, in areas where the climate is closer to the wasp’s natural preferences. Fortunately, sightings are rare.

What do Executioner Wasps Eat?

Caterpillars and nectar. These are the 2 primary food sources for the Executioner wasp, although some clarifications are needed. Only larvae consume animal-sourced protein like caterpillars. Adult Executioners prefer plant-based carbs that they will consume via the nectar. Their feeding behavior will contribute to plant pollination, which means that Executioner wasps benefit their environment.

The larvae require a surplus of protein due to their biological demands at that point in the growth stage. The adult Executioners are there to provide, hunting caterpillars and preparing the prey for easy consumption. The Executioner will use its teeth-filled mandibles to chop the caterpillar and macerate it with saliva, creating feeding balls.

These will nourish the Executioner larvae to prepare them for the pupa stage.

Do Executioner Wasps Sting?

To say that the Executioner wasp’s sting is an understatement. A more accurate description would be that they sting badly. The Executioner wasp has no official ranking on the Schmidt pain index, but it is believed to rank a 2 or 3 out of 4.

In essence, expect the pain to reach absurd intensities right from the get-go. The sensation, according to Coyote Peterson, the famous Youtube personality who’s tested the sting on its own skin, resembles that of flaying.

The pain will maintain its excruciating intensity for about 5-10 minutes and then pulsate in waves for the following 20. The aftereffects may manifest throughout days to come. All these issues make for an unpleasant experience, to say the least.

Do Executioner Wasps Have a Queen?

Yes, they do. It’s the queen that will give birth to the entire colony on its own. The queen will seek a fitting location for its future colony, build the nest, and produce and feed the first brood. The Executioner queen will feed this first brood alone until the larvae turn into adults.

Things become simpler from that point on. The first brood will turn into the first generation of adult Executioners who will work on expanding the hive and care for future generations of wasps to come. Once settled, the queen will never leave the colony again unless forced to.

How do Executioner Wasps Reproduce?

Little is known about the Executioner’s reproductive behavior, but they are vespid wasps belonging to the Polistinae family, just like Paper wasps. It’s safe to assume that their reproductive behavior is similar.

In the initial phases, the queen will settle the colony on her own. She will deposit the first eggs, care for the larvae, and ensure the safety of the nest. The first generation of Executioner females are also fertile breeders and capable of laying eggs on their own.

They will further advance the colony and give birth to future generations of Executioner wasps, boosting the colony’s strength and stability.

Are Executioner Wasps Dangerous to Humans?

They can be. Executioner wasps are eusocial creatures, a pretentious term for animals living in colonies. There are 4 underlying dangers associated with Executioner wasps, such as:

  1. Its venom – The Executioner wasp will sting when provoked and is capable of inflicting severe pain, along with some rather exotic effects. One of them is hemotoxic in nature, as the wasp’s venom kills the cells surrounding the area being stung. It’s common for people to experience localized necrosis as a result. Fun stuff.
  2. Its pheromone-controlled social behavior – If you think the Executioner wasp’s sting is bad, you should see how several dozen stings feel like. The wasp will release specific alert pheromones when threatened, calling in for air support. This will result in a swarm behavior, causing the warrior Executioners to tackle the threat head-on.
  3. The stinging behavior – This is an Executioner wasp which means that, unlike bees, it will sting multiple times. And it will inject venom with each sting. This is guaranteed to provide the victim with a vastly different experience than one who has only experienced 1 sting.
  4. The risk of allergy – Some people manifest allergies towards certain insect bites or stings. These people are at higher risk of developing strong allergic reactions to the Executioner’s venom, including anaphylactic shock. In some situations, anaphylactic shock may lead to death.

It also doesn’t help that the Executioner wasp isn’t the most peaceful creature in the world and may display annoying territorial behavior. If you notice you have a colony of Executioners on your property, professional assistance is required. You could try to handle the situation on your own, just let me know the time and the price of the Pay-Per-View.

Are Executioner Wasps Deadly?

No, they are not. Technically speaking, they can become deadly under certain situations, like when a swarm attacks you and receives several hundred stings. Or the person being attacked suffers from various health (read ‘heart’ conditions) that may aggravate as a result of the attack. Or if the victim suffers an episode of anaphylactic shock.

However, the chance of experiencing these issues is very slim. Most people will only experience the pain associated with the sting with little-to-no complications long-term.

Strictly speaking, Executioner wasps tend to be more dangerous for pets, especially smaller pets. Dogs and cats, for instance, tend to investigate their environment via smelling and tasting. This increases the risk of receiving a nose or tongue sting, which can degenerate fast.

The swelling may obturate the animal’s airways, leading to suffocation and death.


Executioner wasps are fascinating yet dangerous creatures. They are generally beneficial to the environment since they contribute to flower pollination and keep the caterpillar population under control.

The problem is that they also rank among the insects with the most painful stings in the world. If you suspect you have an Executioner infestation, call the experts. Attempting to handle the situation on your own will most likely not end well.

Wasps   Updated: January 6, 2022
avatar Welcome to Insectic, a blog to learn about insects and bugs. I'm Richard, and I've created this website to share my experience, knowledge, and passion with others.

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