Palaeovespa is a genus of wasps that holds seven species, all of which are extinct. Two of the species were discovered in Baltic amber deposits from Europe dating back to the middle Eocene era, while the other five were found in Florissant Formation amber from the Priabonian stage era in Colorado in the United States. This genus, and four of its species, was first described in 1906 by Dr. Theodore Cockerell in the Bulletin of the Museum of Comparative Zoology. Cockerell described all but one species, P. socialis, which was described by George Poinar, Jr. in 2005.
Species within the Palaeovespa genus resemble modern members of the Vespa genus, sharing traits like a rounded thorax and thorax that broadens at the hind end. Despite these similarities, the wings of species in this genus resemble those of members in the Polistes genus. Although Cockerell used P. florissantia as the holotype to describe the genus, not all of the species share its appearance.
The first species that was discovered in Baltic amber was P. baltica and it is known from only one female specimen. This specimen is .63 inches in length and is mostly red in color with brownish wings. The second species discovered in Baltic amber, P. socialis, is .5 inches in length and is black in color with yellowish markings occurring on the head. It has been noted that the descriptions of these two species may not be reliable and that P. socialis may not belong to the Palaeovespa genus at all.
The first species discovered in Florissant Formation amber was P. florissantia, which is mostly black in color with reddish wings and was described using one specimen. P. scudderi, described from two specimens, was also mostly black in color with lighter legs. The final species described by Cockerell, known as P. relecta, was described from one specimen and is .69 inches in length. This species is noted for having a similar appearance to modern wasps, holding a black coloration with yellow markings occurring along body.
Image Caption: This fossil of Palaeovespa florissantia, a paper wasp, reveals a species that lived 34 million years ago. Credit: NPS/Wikipedia