European Wasps

European Wasps

Scientific Name: Vespula germanica

How to identify European Wasps

European wasps are a stout wasp with a bright yellow and black banded abdomen, and a pair of black spots on each yellow band. They have two pairs of wings with the first pair larger than the second. They have black antennae and fly with their legs held close to the body.

Where are European Wasps commonly found?

European wasps are found in large communal nests, normally only visible as a small entrance hole. They are normally built either underground or in cavities in walls, ceilings, logs or trees. The nests are made from chewed wood fibre and can be found in ceilings, wall cavities, logs, tree trunks and soil. They are mainly found in the Southern states of Australia and generally south of Sydney.

Why are European Wasps considered a pest?

European wasps are more aggressive than bees and will attack when their nests are disturbed. Unlike bees, wasps can sting more than once, and do not die after stinging. The sting causes a burning pain and swelling. If stings are multiple, a more severe systemic reaction may occur.

European wasps are a significant Agricultural pest particularly in grape growing regions of mainland Australia and Tasmania.

In some individuals, wasp, bee and ant stings can cause an allergic reaction (anaphylaxis), but this is relatively uncommon. Effective treatment is available, which involves known bee/ant/wasp sting allergy sufferers carrying a special kit when outdoors. Immunotherapy or desensitisation is also available, and can reduce the severity of the allergy. Seven deaths over a twenty-year period attributed to wasp stings have been recorded in Australia, mainly amongst known allergy sufferers who were not carrying their preventative medicine with them.

A cold pack may be used to relieve the pain of the sting. If there is evidence of a more severe reaction or the sting victim is known to be allergic to wasp and bee venom, medical attention should be sought immediately.

What is the biology and lifecycle of a European Wasp?

European wasp colonies are started in spring by a single fertilised queen, which lays an egg in a number of cells in the nest. These hatch into grub-like larvae and are tended by the queen for a number of weeks. They become the first batch of workers that take over nest construction and rearing of the larvae while the queen concentrates on laying eggs. The nest grows throughout the summer until a batch of males and new queens are hatched in the autumn. These mate and fly off to start new nests.

Management Tips for European Wasps

The best method of wasp control is to locate the nest, or nests, in the surrounding area and eradicate them using an insecticide registered for the purpose. It is recommended that treatment of the nest occurs early in the morning or at night when wasps are less active.

In many cases the nest will not be located. Monitoring for activity then baiting with a toxicant is now an option to eliminate a colony.

When dealing with European wasps it is important to wear protective clothing and a bee veil. Be aware that a torch/ head torch without a red filter may attract wasps. You can cover a torch’s light with red cellophane secured with a rubber band.


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