Microsatellite loci are regions of DNA containing tandem repeats of a short sequence motif; they occur abundantly in all eukaryotic genomes and have been shown to be a rich source of highly polymorphic genetic markers in humans and other mammals. These loci are particularly suitable for population studies because they can be relatively easily scored using a combination of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) amplification of each locus followed by electrophoresis to separate alleles. This paper details a method for finding these loci in any species. This method demonstrates that trinucleotide microsatellite loci are abundant and highly polymorphic in the social wasp Polistes annularis, whereas allozyme electrophoresis reveals very little polymorphism. The first six loci examined were all polymorphic with a mean observed heterozygosity of 0.62; in comparison average heterozygosity of 33 allozymes was 0.035. We suggest that this method can be used to detect variation where other methods have failed, making it an ideal tool for population and conservation geneticists who must deal with populations lacking other types of genetic variability.