Polistes formosanus Sonan, 1927 is closely related to P. japonicus de Saussure, 1858, and has been treated variously as a good species or subspecies or synonym of P. japonicus. We designate the lectotype of P. formosanus. Detailed examination of morphological characters of specimens from continental Asia, Taiwan, the Nansei Islands and main islands of Japan showed that P. formosanus is a good species different from P. japonicus. Molecular phylogenetic analyses using mitochondrial genes also supported this conclusion. Polistes formosanus is distributed in northern and central Taiwan and in the Nansei Islands and extends northward to the Amami Islands, while P. japonicus occurs in continental Asia, central Taiwan, Korean Peninsula, Honshu to Kyushu of Japan and the Osumi Islands (Yakushima and Tanega-shima Island) of the Nansei Islands. The speciation and biogeography of P. formosanus are briefly discussed.