DistributionEuropean wasps are an introduced wasp native to Europe, North Africa and temperate Asia. They were first found in Australia in Tasmania in 1959, and near Melbourne in 1977. They have now spread through Tasmania, Victoria, the Australian Capital Territory, south-eastern New South Wales, and southern South Australia around Adelaide and the Adelaide hills, south western parts of Western Australia. Several nests have been found in south-east Queensland.
Wasp IdentificationLength: workers 12mm - 15mm; queen to about 20mm.
DescriptionThe European Wasp is a social insect with bold black and yellow bands. The black bands have arrow-shaped black markings down the centre of the abdomen, and there are pairs of small black spots on the yellow bands. The wings are long and transparent, the antennae are black and the legs are mostly yellow. Queens are similar but larger. The European wasp is an introduced pest in southern parts of Australia. They are a pest both for their propensity to sting and their environmental impact on native insects and spiders, although they have some beneficial value as a predator of some pest insects. The European Wasp is similar in appearance to the related English Wasp (Vespula vulgaris). You can tell them apart by the pattern on the back - the European Wasp has black dots in the yellow bands but the English Wasp does not have dots. The European Wasp also has three black dots on the face, but the English Wasp does not. None of the Australian native paper wasps has such a striking black and yellow pattern. European Wasps are aggressive when defending their nest, and will swarm out to attack when disturbed. Stings are painful and multiple stings can be dangerous. The wasps are capable of stinging multiple times. Adult workers wasps feed on sweet substances such as fruit and sugary secretions from sucking insects. They feed larvae in the nest with other insects and spiders, or pieces of meat from dead animals. European wasps are social insects forming large colonies. Most of the wasps die in winter, but the queen hibernates and establish a new colony the next season. The first young become workers for the new colony. They build a paper nest from saliva mixed with chewed wood fibres. The nest can grow to 20cm in diameter, sometimes much larger. The nest is usually hidden underground or in a roof or wall cavity. Nests may contain several thousand wasps.