Vespula germanica (German wasp)
- Summary of Invasiveness
- Taxonomic Tree
- Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature
- Distribution Table
- History of Introduction and Spread
- Risk of Introduction
- Habitat List
- Host Animals
- List of Symptoms/Signs
- Biology and Ecology
- Latitude/Altitude Ranges
- Air Temperature
- Natural enemies
- Notes on Natural Enemies
- Means of Movement and Dispersal
- Pathway Causes
- Pathway Vectors
- Impact Summary
- Economic Impact
- Environmental Impact
- Social Impact
- Risk and Impact Factors
- Similarities to Other Species/Conditions
- Prevention and Control
- Distribution Maps
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PicturesTop of page
IdentityTop of page
Preferred Scientific Name
- Vespula germanica Fabricius, 1793
Preferred Common Name
- German wasp
Other Scientific Names
- Dolichovespula germanica
- Paravespula germanica Blüthgen, 1938
- Pseudovespula germanica
- Vespa germanica
International Common Names
- English: European wasp; German yellow jacket
- Spanish: avispa alemana
- French: guepe germanique
Local Common Names
- Bulgaria: vosa
- Denmark: tysk gedehams
- Germany: Wespe, Deutsche
- Italy: vespe
- Latvia: lapsene
- Lithuania: vaspa
- Norway: tysk veps
- Portugal: abispa
- Russian Federation: ovsa
- Sweden: tysk geting
- VESPGE (Vespa germanica)
Summary of InvasivenessTop of page
Introduction and establishment of V. germanica has been recorded in New Zealand (1944), Australia (1959), South Africa (1972), United States (New York 1891, Maryland 1968, California 1991), Canada (1971), Chile (1974) and Argentina (1978). Introductions have also been recorded in Iceland and Ascension Island. V. germanica can have significant negative impacts on horticulture, apiculture, tourism and outdoor social activities, as well as animal health and biodiversity.
Taxonomic TreeTop of page
- Domain: Eukaryota
- Kingdom: Metazoa
- Phylum: Arthropoda
- Subphylum: Uniramia
- Class: Insecta
- Order: Hymenoptera
- Family: Vespidae
- Genus: Vespula
- Species: Vespula germanica
Notes on Taxonomy and NomenclatureTop of page
Vespula germanica is a wasp species of Palaearctic origin within the order Hymenoptera, family Vespidae, subfamily Vespinae. This species is commonly known as the European wasp in Australasia, South Africa and South America, and the German wasp or yellowjacket elsewhere.
DescriptionTop of page
V. germanica is marked 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. Workers measure 12-15 mm in length; queens are similar but larger (up to about 20 mm) (OzAnimals, 2012).
DistributionTop of page
Some details of the endemic distribution of V. germanica in Europe were provided by P Kment (National Museum of Czech Republic), J Diller (Zoological State Collection, Munich, Germany) and V Repasi (Hungarian Natural History Museum, Budapest, Hungary) (personal communications 2008).
The distribution of V. germanica in North America was described by Akre et al. (1980). Subsequently, V. germanica has been recorded in Maryland (Morse et al., 1977), Washington State (KM Pickett, Department of Biology, University of Vermont, personal communication, 2008), Missouri (Hunt and Sanders, 1998), Wisconsin (R Jeanne, Department of Entomology, University of Wisconsin; J Jandt , Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Arizona, personal communications, 2008), Illinois (B Taylor, Department of Zoology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, personal communication, 2008), and Alabama, Maryland, Tennessee and Kentucky (Triplehorn Insect Collection of the Ohio State University, courtesy of J Wenzel, Department of Entomology, The Ohio State University, personal communication, 2008). V. germanica specimens have been confirmed in Arizona, Utah, Oregon and Indiana by B Jacobson (Greer Laboratories, Lenoir, North Carolina, personal communication, 2008). The species also occurs widely in central and southern coastal California (K Vissher and N Nisson, Department of Entomology, University of California, Riverside, personal communications, 2008).
V. germanica has not yet been recorded in Georgia, Texas, Oklahoma or Florida (USA) (JM Carpenter, Division of Invertebrate Zoology, American Museum of Natural History; M Goodisman, School of Biology, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta; B Jacobson, J Jandt and H Reed, Department of Biology, Oral Roberts University, Tulsa and D Wahl, American Entomological Institute, Gainesville, Florida, personal communications 2008).
The first records of V. germanica in Canada were from Winnipeg, Manitoba in 1976 (Galloway and Preston, 1982) and the species now occurs in Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia (M Buck, Department of Environmental Biology, University of Guelph, Ontario; S McCann, Department of Biological Sciences, Simon Fraser University; J Huber, Canadian National Collection of Insects and Arachnids, Ottawa, personal communications, 2008). It also occurs in Halifax (Nova Scotia), Sydney and Lake Uist (Cape Breton Island) (DB McCorquodale, Department of Biology, Cape Breton University, Nova Scotia; C Majka, Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History, Halifax, personal communications, 2008).
In Chile, V. germanica has been recorded from Punta Arenas in the southern tip of South America to Coquimbo in the north (R Ripa, Instituto de Investigaciones Agropecurias, La Cruz, Chile, personal communication, 2008). In Argentina, the species is present throughout Patagonia as far north as Buenos Aires Province and southwards to Parque Nacional Los Glaciares (P d’Adamo, Laboratorio de Ecología de Insectos Forestales, INTA EEA, Bariloche, Argentina, personal communication, 2008).
Records for the distribution of V. germanica in South Africa were provided by AH Kirk-Spriggs (Albany Museum, Grahamstown) and G Tribe (ARC Plant Protection Research Institute, Stellenbosch, personal communications, 2008).
Distribution TableTop of page
The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.
|Continent/Country/Region||Distribution||Last Reported||Origin||First Reported||Invasive||Reference||Notes|
|Afghanistan||Present||Native||Not invasive||Giordani Soika, 1962; Gusenleitner, 1972; Archer, 1998|
|Armenia||Present||Native||Not invasive||Kostylev, 1929; Archer, 1998|
|China||Present||Present based on regional distribution.|
|-Beijing||Present||Native||Not invasive||Yamane et al., 1980; Carpenter and Kojima, 1997|
|-Gansu||Present||Native||Not invasive||Carpenter and Kojima, 1997; Archer, 1998|
|-Hebei||Present||Native||Not invasive||Carpenter and Kojima, 1997; Archer, 1998|
|-Heilongjiang||Present||Native||Not invasive||Carpenter and Kojima, 1997; Archer, 1998|
|-Jilin||Present||Native||Not invasive||Yamane et al., 1980|
|-Liaoning||Present||Native||Not invasive||Carpenter and Kojima, 1997; Archer, 1998|
|-Nei Menggu||Present||Native||Not invasive||Carpenter and Kojima, 1997|
|-Qinghai||Present||Native||Not invasive||Carpenter and Kojima, 1997|
|-Sichuan||Present||Native||Not invasive||Yamane et al., 1980|
|-Tibet||Present||Native||Not invasive||Yamane et al., 1980|
|-Xinjiang||Present||Native||Not invasive||Archer, 1998|
|Georgia (Republic of)||Present||Native||Not invasive||Kobakhidze, 1962; Archer, 1998|
|India||Present||Present based on regional distribution.|
|-Jammu and Kashmir||Present||Native||Not invasive||Das and Gupta, 1989|
|Iran||Present||Native||Not invasive||Blüthgen and Gusenleitner, 1970; Archer, 1998|
|Iraq||Present||Native||Not invasive||Dvorák and Landolt, 2006|
|Israel||Present||Native||Not invasive||Ishay et al., 1986; Dubatolov, 2002|
|Jordan||Present||Native||Not invasive||Haddad et al., 2007||Above 1000m altitude|
|Kazakhstan||Present||Native||Not invasive||Archer, 1998; Dubatolov, 2005|
|Korea, DPR||Present||Native||Not invasive||Yamane et al., 1980|
|Korea, Republic of||Present||Native||Not invasive||Carpenter and Kojima, 1997|
|Kyrgyzstan||Widespread||Native||Not invasive||Dubatolov and Milko, 2004|
|Lebanon||Present||Native||Not invasive||Ebner, 1930|
|Mongolia||Present||Native||Not invasive||Gusenleitner, 1991; Archer, 1998|
|Pakistan||Present||Native||Not invasive||Das and Gupta, 1989; Dvorak, 2007|
|Syria||Present||Native||Not invasive||Carpenter and Kojima, 1997; Archer, 1998|
|Tajikistan||Present||Native||Not invasive||Carpenter and Kojima, 1997; Archer, 1998|
|Turkey||Present||Native||Not invasive||Archer, 1998; Yildirim and Kojima, 1999|
|Turkmenistan||Present||Native||Not invasive||Carpenter and Kojima, 1997; Dubatolov, 2002|
|Uzbekistan||Present||Native||Not invasive||Carpenter and Kojima, 1997; Archer, 1998; Dubatolov, 2002|
|Algeria||Present||Native||Not invasive||Archer, 1998|
|Morocco||Present||Native||Not invasive||Gusenlaitner, 1977; Archer, 1998|
|Saint Helena||Present||Present based on regional distribution.|
|South Africa||Localised||Introduced||Invasive||Whitehead and Prins, 1975||First record at Kirstenbosch, Cape peninsula 1972|
|-Canary Islands||Widespread||Introduced||Invasive||Erlandsson, 1978; Archer, 1998|
|Tunisia||Present||Native||Not invasive||Archer, 1998|
|Canada||Present||Present based on regional distribution.|
|-Alberta||Localised||Introduced||Invasive||M Buck, Royal Alberta Museum, Canada, pers. comm., 2010||Edmonton, first records in 2009|
|-British Columbia||Localised||Introduced||Invasive||Archer, 1998||In southern areas only|
|-Manitoba||Widespread||Introduced||Invasive||Buck et al., 2008||First recorded 1976|
|-New Brunswick||Widespread||Introduced||Invasive||Akre et al., 1980|
|-Newfoundland and Labrador||Present||Introduced||Invasive||M Buck, Royal Alberta Museum, Canada, pers. comm., 2010||Mt Pearl|
|-Nova Scotia||Widespread||Introduced||Invasive||Akre et al., 1980|
|-Ontario||Widespread||Introduced||Invasive||Buck et al., 2008||First recorded 1971|
|-Quebec||Widespread||Introduced||Invasive||Buck et al., 2008|
|USA||Present||Present based on regional distribution.|
|-California||Widespread||Introduced||Invasive||Vetter et al., 1995||First nests reported 1991|
|-Connecticut||Widespread||Introduced||Invasive||Akre et al., 1980|
|-Delaware||Widespread||Introduced||Invasive||Menke and Snelling, 1975|
|-Georgia||Widespread||Introduced||Invasive||Akre et al., 1980|
|-Illinois||Widespread||Introduced||Invasive||Akre et al., 1980|
|-Indiana||Widespread||Introduced||Invasive||Macdonald et al., 1980||First records 1976|
|-Iowa||Widespread||Introduced||Invasive||Akre et al., 1980|
|-Maine||Widespread||Introduced||Invasive||Akre et al., 1980|
|-Maryland||Widespread||Introduced||Invasive||Morse et al., 1977||Established 1968|
|-Massachusetts||Widespread||Introduced||Invasive||Akre et al., 1980|
|-Michigan||Widespread||Introduced||Invasive||Akre et al., 1980||First record 1978|
|-Minnesota||Widespread||Introduced||Invasive||Akre et al., 1980|
|-Missouri||Localised||Introduced||Invasive||R Jeanne, University of Wisconsin, USA, personal communication, 2009; Hunt and Sanders, 1998|
|-New Hampshire||Widespread||Introduced||Invasive||Akre et al., 1980|
|-New Jersey||Widespread||Introduced||Invasive||Wagner and Reierson, 1971||First nest reported 1971|
|-New York||Widespread||Introduced||Invasive||Morse et al., 1977||First record 1891|
|-North Carolina||Widespread||Introduced||Invasive||Akre et al., 1980|
|-Ohio||Widespread||Introduced||Invasive||Macdonald et al., 1980||First records 1971|
|-Pennsylvania||Widespread||Introduced||Invasive||Menke and Snelling, 1975|
|-South Carolina||Widespread||Introduced||Invasive||Akre et al., 1980|
|-Tennessee||Widespread||Introduced||Invasive||Akre et al., 1980|
|-Vermont||Widespread||Introduced||Invasive||Akre et al., 1980|
|-Virginia||Widespread||Introduced||Invasive||Akre et al., 1980|
|-West Virginia||Widespread||Introduced||Invasive||Akre et al., 1980|
|-Wisconsin||Widespread||Introduced||Invasive||Akre et al., 1980||Now dominates the 12 other spp. of Vespula|
|Argentina||Localised||Introduced||Invasive||Willink, 1980; Edwards, 1984; D'Adamo et al., 2002||First established in Depto. Mina, northern Patagonia in 1978, now widespread throughout Patagonia|
|Chile||Localised||Introduced||Invasive||Peña et al., 1976||First recorded in Santiago in 1974|
|Albania||Widespread||Native||Not invasive||Archer, 1998; Cetkovic, 2002|
|Austria||Widespread||Native||Not invasive||Gusenleitner, 1981; Archer, 1998|
|Belarus||Present||Native||Not invasive||Archer, 1998; Agunovich, 2007; Shlyakhtenok, 2007|
|Belgium||Widespread||Native||Not invasive||Archer, 1998|
|Bulgaria||Widespread||Native||Not invasive||Archer, 1998; Cetkovic, 2002|
|Croatia||Widespread||Native||Not invasive||Archer, 1998; Cetkovic, 2002|
|Cyprus||Widespread||Native||Not invasive||Georghiou, 1977|
|Czech Republic||Widespread||Native||Not invasive||Archer, 1998; Dvorak and Straka, 2007|
|Denmark||Widespread||Native||Not invasive||Archer, 1998|
|Estonia||Present||Native||Not invasive||Remm, 1983|
|Finland||Localised||Native||Not invasive||Pekkarinen and Hulden, 1995||Irregular occurrence|
|France||Widespread||Native||Not invasive||Archer, 1998; Gereys, 2006|
|-Corsica||Present||Native||Not invasive||Dvorák and Landolt, 2006|
|Germany||Widespread||Native||Not invasive||Archer, 1998; Oehlke, 2001|
|Greece||Widespread||Native||Not invasive||Archer, 1998; Cetkovic, 2002|
|Hungary||Widespread||Native||Not invasive||Móczár, 1995|
|Iceland||Localised||Introduced||Not invasive||Olafsson, 1991||Rarely in Reykyavik area|
|Ireland||Present||Native||Not invasive||Archer, 1998; Ings and Roberts, 2002|
|Italy||Widespread||Native||Not invasive||Giordani-Soika and Borsato, 1995||Also Sicily and Sardinia|
|-Sardinia||Present||Giordani-Soika and Borsato, 1995|
|-Sicily||Present||Giordani-Soika and Borsato, 1995|
|Lithuania||Present||Native||Not invasive||Dubatolov, 2002|
|Luxembourg||Widespread||Native||Not invasive||Sauber and Hoffmann, 1974|
|Macedonia||Present||Native||Not invasive||Cetkovic, 2002|
|Montenegro||Present||Native||Not invasive||Cetkovic, 2002|
|Netherlands||Widespread||Native||Not invasive||Hensen, 1985|
|Norway||Localised||Native||Not invasive||Løken, 1978||Southern Norway|
|Poland||Widespread||Native||Not invasive||Archer, 1998; Skibinska, 2004|
|Portugal||Widespread||Native||Not invasive||Diniz, 1978||Also present Madeira Is.|
|-Madeira||Widespread||Introduced||Invasive||Saunders, 1903; Blüthgen, 1940; Erlandsson, 1978; Smit, 2000|
|Romania||Widespread||Native||Not invasive||Archer, 1998|
|Russian Federation||Present||Present based on regional distribution.|
|-Central Russia||Widespread||Native||Not invasive||Archer, 1998; Dubatolov, 2005|
|-Eastern Siberia||Present||Native||Not invasive||Dubatolov, 2005|
|-Russian Far East||Present, few occurrences||Native||Not invasive||Yamane et al., 1980; Dubatolov, 2005||Lake Khanka, Sakhalin Island (Kurzenko, 2004)|
|-Southern Russia||Widespread||Native||Not invasive||Archer, 1998|
|-Western Siberia||Present||Native||Not invasive||Dubatolov, 2005|
|Serbia||Widespread||Native||Not invasive||Cetkovic, 2002|
|Slovakia||Widespread||Native||Not invasive||Dvorak and Straka, 2007|
|Slovenia||Widespread||Native||Not invasive||Archer, 1998; Cetkovic, 2002|
|Spain||Widespread||Native||Not invasive||Madero Montero, 1988|
|Sweden||Widespread||Native||Not invasive||Erlandsson, 1971; Archer, 1998||Southern Sweden|
|Switzerland||Widespread||Native||Not invasive||Archer, 1998; Neumeyer, 2000|
|UK||Widespread||Native||Not invasive||Edwards, 1984||Recorded on Ascension Is in South Atlantic (yarrow, 1967)|
|-Channel Islands||Widespread||Native||Not invasive||Ings and Roberts, 2002|
|Ukraine||Widespread||Native||Not invasive||Archer, 1998; Dubatolov, 2002|
|Australia||Present||Present based on regional distribution.|
|-Australian Northern Territory||Absent, formerly present||Introduced||Invasive||Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 2005||One nest found in Alice Springs, January 2005|
|-New South Wales||Widespread||Introduced||Invasive||Spradbery and Maywald, 1992||Introduced 1975/78, widespread SE half of State|
|-Queensland||Localised||Introduced||Invasive||Spradbery and Maywald, 1992||Restricted to SE of state, nests reported northwards to Maryborough|
|-South Australia||Localised||Introduced||Invasive||Spradbery and Maywald, 1992||Port Lincoln, Port Augusta and Adelaide region since 1978|
|-Tasmania||Widespread||Introduced||Invasive||Spradbery and Maywald, 1992||First nest reported in Hobart in 1959|
|-Victoria||Widespread||Introduced||Invasive||Spradbery and Maywald, 1992||First reported in Melbourne 1977|
|-Western Australia||Localised||Introduced||Invasive||Spradbery and Maywald, 1992||First nests reported in Perth 1977; nests in Albany 1984-85 but since absent; single nests in Kalgoorlie 1988 and 1991|
|New Zealand||Widespread||Introduced||Invasive||Clapperton et al., 1989||Established Hamilton, North Island in 1945 and South Island in 1955|
|Norfolk Island||Eradicated||Introduced||Not invasive||Naumann, 1990||Single colony destroyed in 1982|
History of Introduction and SpreadTop of page
The global endemic distribution of V. germanica includes Europe north to 62°N, the Mediterranean region including coastal North Africa (but excluding Egypt) and eastwards to Palaearctic Asia, northern India, southern Russia, China and Korea south to 23°N. The family includes many Vespula species although only two other species are invasive, Vespula vulgaris in Australia and New Zealand (Clapperton et al., 1989; Matthews et al., 2000; Bashford, 2001) and Vespula pensylvanica in Hawaii (Akre et al., 1980).
The impact of V. germanica as an invasive species has been greatest in Australasia after its introduction and subsequent establishment near a New Zealand Air Force depot in Hamilton, New Zealand in 1944-45. The species had been recorded once before in 1922 but did not become established at that time (Thomas, 1960). The Hamilton introduction, with seven nests reported in 1945, was probably due to the accidental importation during the previous year of queen wasps hibernating on wooden crates containing aircraft spare parts from the United Kingdom. Remains of dead queens were subsequently discovered on the crates. The pest species quickly spread throughout the North Island of New Zealand with 6,000 nests recorded in 1951 (Thomas, 1960) and reached the South Island by the mid 1950s. In 1959 two nests were discovered in Hobart, Tasmania, Australia, and the species spread throughout the island State in the ensuing 15 years (Spradbery and Maywald, 1992). The establishment of V. germanica on the mainland of Australia appears to have occurred as a result of a ship offloading cargo (probably timber from New Zealand) during a single voyage to the ports of Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth, with the first nests recorded in the New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia port capitals during 1977 and 1978. Indeed, the first interceptions of V. germanica in Australia were queens discovered in consignments of New Zealand timber shipped to Sydney in 1954 (Chadwick and Nikitin, 1969). The outbreaks in Perth and Albany (Western Australia) have largely been contained or eradicated through vigorous search and destroy activities, but in the other Australian states, the European wasp has spread and now occupies the southeastern half of New South Wales as far north as Queensland, throughout Victoria, and in suburban and rural Adelaide in South Australia. Individual nests have been reported in Kalgoorlie (Western Australia), Maryborough (SE Queensland) and Alice Springs (Northern Territory).
In the United States, the first record of V. germanica was from a specimen in the Los Angeles Museum of Natural History, collected in Ithaca, New York, in 1891 (Menke and Snelling, 1975). The species remained uncommon in New York from that time until the mid 1960s and was then recorded in Maryland in 1968 (Morse et al., 1977) and later in Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Washington in the northeastern United States; it subsequently spread southwards to the Carolinas, Tennessee and Georgia, with its establishment on the western seaboard of California in 1991 (Vetter et al., 1995). In Canada, V. germanica was first recorded in Ontario in 1971 and Manitoba in 1976 (Buck et al., 2008).
The first record of V. germanica in South Africa was a specimen dated 1972, apparently from a nest that had been destroyed in the Kirstenbosch area of the western Cape Peninsula (Whitehead and Prins, 1975).
IntroductionsTop of page
|Introduced to||Introduced from||Year||Reason||Introduced by||Established in wild through||References||Notes|
|Natural reproduction||Continuous restocking|
|Argentina||Chile||1978||Hitchhiker (pathway cause)||Yes||Accidental as hibernating queens|
|Australian Northern Territory||South Australia||2005||Hitchhiker (pathway cause)||No||Accidental as hibernating queens. ABC News Online|
|California||1991||Hitchhiker (pathway cause)||Yes||Vetter et al. (1995)||Accidental as hibernating queens|
|Chile||1974||Hitchhiker (pathway cause)||Yes||Peña et al. (1976)||Accidental as hibernating queens|
|Indiana||1976||Hitchhiker (pathway cause)||Yes||Macdonald et al. (1980)||Accidental as hibernating queens|
|Manitoba||1976||Hitchhiker (pathway cause)||Yes||Buck et al. (2008)||Accidental as hibernating queens|
|Maryland||1968||Hitchhiker (pathway cause)||Yes||Menke and Snelling (1975); Morse et al. (1977)||Accidental as hibernating queens|
|Michigan||1978||Hitchhiker (pathway cause)||Yes||Akre et al. (1980)||Accidental as hibernating queens|
|New Jersey||1971||Yes||Accidental as hibernating queens|
|New South Wales||New Zealand||1977||Hitchhiker (pathway cause)||Yes||Spradbery and Maywald (1992)||Accidental as hibernating queens|
|New York||1891||Hitchhiker (pathway cause)||Yes||Menke and Snelling (1975)||Accidental as hibernating queens|
|New Zealand||UK||1944||Hitchhiker (pathway cause)||Yes||Accidental as hibernating queens|
|Ohio||1971||Hitchhiker (pathway cause)||Yes||Macdonald et al. (1980)||Accidental as hibernating queens|
|Ontario||1971||Hitchhiker (pathway cause)||Yes||Buck et al. (2008)||Accidental as hibernating queens|
|Queensland||New South Wales||1988||Hitchhiker (pathway cause)||Yes||Spradbery and Maywald (1992)||Accidental as hibernating queens|
|South Africa||1972||Hitchhiker (pathway cause)||Yes||Whitehead and Prins (1975)||Accidental as hibernating queens|
|Tasmania||New Zealand||1959||Hitchhiker (pathway cause)||Yes||Spradbery and Maywald (1992)||Accidental as hibernating queens|
Risk of IntroductionTop of page
An insect pest with a life history stage that includes a hibernating, independent, inseminated adult female which is capable of establishing a social insect colony without further interaction or inputs with other members of the species, has a high potential for geographical dispersal and for successful colonization of new territories. The modern age of travel by ships, planes and road vehicles provides immense potential for dispersal of such organisms. If that insect impacts adversely on humans and is transported to a place where the climate and other resources are suitable for its establishment, and where natural enemies probably do not occur, the stage is set for major pest outbreaks.
Habitat ListTop of page
|Terrestrial – Managed||Cultivated / agricultural land||Principal habitat||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Disturbed areas||Principal habitat||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Rail / roadsides||Principal habitat||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Urban / peri-urban areas||Principal habitat||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Buildings||Principal habitat||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial ‑ Natural / Semi-natural||Natural forests||Secondary/tolerated habitat||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Riverbanks||Principal habitat||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
Host AnimalsTop of page
List of Symptoms/SignsTop of page
|Pain / Discomfort Signs / Skin pain||Sign|
|Reproductive Signs / Mastitis, abnormal milk||Sign|
|Reproductive Signs / Teat injury, cut, tear||Sign|
|Skin / Integumentary Signs / Parasite visible, skin, hair, feathers||Sign|
|Skin / Integumentary Signs / Skin ulcer, erosion, excoriation||Sign|
Biology and EcologyTop of page
V. germanica is a social wasp with a typically annual life cycle. Queens produced during late summer and autumn mate with one or more males, storing the sperm within a sperm-storage organ, the spermatheca. They then pass the winter months in hibernation in well-insulated places such as leaf litter, crevices in tree bark and also buildings and outhouses [see pictures]. In spring, the queens emerge from hibernation, feed at nectar sources and begin searching for suitable nesting sites. Typically such sites are hidden away: underground, behind retaining walls and rockeries in gardens, and also in cavity walls or roof spaces in buildings. The abandoned burrows of rodents and rabbits are also utilized. Only very rarely does V. germanica construct an exposed nest [see pictures]. There is sometimes competition for nest sites and spring queens may die during fights while invading or defending a nest site (Spradbery, 1991). The founding queen builds her ‘embryo’ nest after collecting wood from old, seasoned (grey-coloured) dead trees, wooden poles and fences by scraping off the fibres, mixing with saliva and working with its serrated mandibles to produce thin strips of wet ‘paper’ that resemble papier-mâché or carton. The embryo nest consists of a comb of about 30 hexagonal cells with their openings facing downwards attached to the substrate with a stout pillar of wasp carton and surrounded by several round layers of umbrella-like envelopes for insulation, the whole structure being about the size and shape of a large golf ball [see pictures].
Once adult worker wasps (daughters of the founding queen) are reared to maturity, they assume all foraging and nest-building duties and the queen remains within the nest. Worker activities include excavating the nest site by removing soil, often after softening it with collected water, to allow nest enlargement. Foraging for food entails seeking protein to feed the developing larvae such as arthropod prey and carrion, and carbohydrates for adults such as nectar, tree sap, fruit and honey dew.
As the nest develops, more combs are added below the original queen-built comb, suspended by stout carton pillars and the outer, insulating envelope is re-cycled as the nest grows larger. By late summer the nest is about the size of a football with several thousand adult workers in the colony. At this time, queen-rearing cells, which are twice the volume of the worker cells, are constructed and the new queens and also males (which may be reared in both worker and queen cells) are produced.
After feeding and laying down quantities of body fat, the young queens leave the nest, mate and then finally seek hibernation quarters where they will remain until spring. V. germanica colonies have the capacity to overwinter by re-queening whereby the new queens, instead of leaving the nest to hibernate, remain in the nest, develop their ovaries and begin laying eggs. Such behaviour has been observed occasionally in North Africa, on the Greek island of Skopolos and in the South of France, but is a very common phenomenon in Australasia where about 10 per cent of colonies of V. germanica continue for 12 months or more, some perennial nests growing to a prodigious size (Spradbery, 1988) [see pictures].
ClimateTop of page
|Cf - Warm temperate climate, wet all year||Preferred||Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, wet all year|
|Cs - Warm temperate climate with dry summer||Preferred||Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry summers|
|Cw - Warm temperate climate with dry winter||Preferred||Warm temperate climate with dry winter (Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry winters)|
Latitude/Altitude RangesTop of page
|Latitude North (°N)||Latitude South (°S)||Altitude Lower (m)||Altitude Upper (m)|
Air TemperatureTop of page
|Parameter||Lower limit||Upper limit|
|Absolute minimum temperature (ºC)||<0|
|Mean annual temperature (ºC)||26|
|Mean maximum temperature of hottest month (ºC)||33|
|Mean minimum temperature of coldest month (ºC)||18|
Natural enemiesTop of page
|Natural enemy||Type||Life stages||Specificity||References||Biological control in||Biological control on|
|Sphecophaga vesparum||Parasite||Larvae/Pupae||to genus||Donovan and Read, 1987; Field and Darby, 1991; Read et al., 1990||New Zealand|
|Sphecophaga vesparum burra||Parasite||New Zealand|
Notes on Natural EnemiesTop of page
The wasp colony with its paper structure, large quantities of protein in the form of immature and adult wasps plus the detritus that accumulates underground below the nest, provides a rich habitat for predators, parasites and commensals, despite the defensive stings and jaws possessed by adult wasps. Numerous fly and beetle species, parasitoids such as ichneumonid wasps, mites, nematodes, and predators such as birds and badgers have all been recorded living at the expense of wasp colonies (Spradbery, 1973). However, with the exception of the ichneumonid parasitoid, Sphecophaga vesparum, none have been considered appropriate as biological control agents. In the case of S. vesparum, this species was introduced from the United States and Europe to New Zealand where it was reared on field-collected V. germanica brood, host specificity tests were carried out and it was subsequently released into the field (Donovan and Read, 1987). Parasitoid establishment was confirmed although wasp nest densities appear unaffected (Beggs et al., 1996). A similar exercise using S.vesparum from New Zealand was carried out in Victoria, Australia (Field and Darby, 1991).
Means of Movement and DispersalTop of page
Foraging worker wasps of the genus Vespula can travel up to 3000 m but the majority forage within 400 m of their nest site (Akre et al., 1975). Queens of the related social wasp, Vespula rufa, have been observed in mass movements during the spring exodus from hibernation quarters near the coast of Sweden and it was estimated that some had flown at least 50km (Rudebeck, 1965). Undoubtedly, when searching for suitable nest sites in the spring, queens of V. germanica can probably disperse several km but no confirmed distances have been determined.
Accidental introduction of V. germanica queens during the hibernation phase of their life cycle is inevitable in a world with modern transport systems. The movement of materials in which queens are hibernating such as boxes and other merchandise by ship, rail or plane to a geographical assortment of destinations has occurred many times over the past seventy years or so. Introductions to countries in the southern hemisphere and North America with a similar climate to their endemic range in the northern hemisphere, such as Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, United States, Canada, Chile and Argentina all bear witness to the success of this passive transport. Once established within a new country or region, the accidental spread of hibernating queens via road and rail transport enables further dispersal and potential colonization of all suitable habitats. This has certainly been the case in Australia where V. germanica has now spread from the original seaports of introduction to all parts of the island continent that are suitable, with only Western Australia authorities succeeding in limiting its local spread (Spradbery and Maywald, 1992).
Pathway CausesTop of page
Pathway VectorsTop of page
Impact SummaryTop of page
ImpactTop of page
V. germanica can have significant negative impacts on horticulture, apiculture, tourism and outdoor social activities, as well as animal health and biodiversity.
Such impacts occur primarily in countries where the wasp has been accidentally introduced although there are examples of adverse V. germanica impacts on the quality of life and also human fatalities in countries where this species is endemic. In Australia, wasps kill livestock when animals such as goats eat fallen fruit containing foraging wasps. Several dog deaths have been reported, ferrets have been killed when sent down rabbit burrows containing wasp nests, and a horse died after trampling a nest in the Snowy Mountains in Victoria, Australia.
Economic ImpactTop of page
Beekeepers in New Zealand and Tasmania, Australia, suffer significant losses to V. germanica predation of adult bees and invasion of hives. Some 2% of New Zealand apiaries are destroyed annually and 10,000 hives severely affected (Walton and Reid, 1976). Vineyards in Australia are adversely affected by foraging wasps which spoil fruit and intimidate pickers, and grape growers in Oregon and Washington State can lose half their crops to Vespula wasps. A similar species in California caused annual losses to agriculture of US $200,000 in 1970s values (Poinar and Ennik, 1972).
Vespula can have a marked impact on tourism when they are present in large numbers and foraging aggressively for food. For example, on the Greek island of Skopolos where V. germanica occasionally overwinters, “populations of social wasps in some years reach such numbers that they pose a definite risk to the future of tourism and agriculture on the island” (Cainadas, 1987). Social wasps have also been reported as major problems at holiday resorts in the United States where swimming, boating and fishing (especially cleaning fish outdoors) proved impossible to endure and guests departed resorts prematurely (Akre, 1983). At Miami University, Florida, US, the authorities were forced to re-schedule most of their outdoor activities in 1975 due to plagues of V. germanica (Akre, 1983). In Tasmania, tourists visiting the Gordon River on cruise boats have refused to leave the safety of the toilets for fear of wasps in the area and in southern Tasmania, several popular camping sites are uninhabitable at times because of V. germanica numbers (Gullan, 1999).
Environmental ImpactTop of page
V. germanica requires large quantities of protein to rear its brood. Sources of protein are typically insects and carrion but they are also predatory on nestling birds (Moller, 1990). The quantity of arthropods collected by foraging wasps is remarkable, with a recorded maximum annual collection of 99kg of prey by a single, overwintered nest in New Zealand (Harris, 1996). Prey was mainly flies together with honey bees, moths and spiders and bird remains. This weight of prey is approximately equivalent to 3.5 million blowflies. Where the density of nests is high, wasps can destroy virtually all insect life in a local area with the subsequent disappearance of insectivorous birds (Barr et al., 1996). In parts of Tasmania where the wasps had collected all other insect life, they were observed preying cannibalistically on each other (Spradbery, 1988).
In the fragile ecosystems of southwestern Tasmania and other parts of the world where V. germanica is prevalent in wilderness areas, the loss of insect pollinators of rare or endangered flora cannot be over-emphasized.
In New Zealand, V. germanica wasps (and the sympatric V. vulgaris) collect large quantities of the honeydew produced by scale insects in the Nothofagus beech forests. This carbohydrate resource is also the main food source for many native arthropods and birds and, where foraging by wasps leads to a depletion of this resource, it adversely affects the breeding success of birds such as the endangered kaka (Beggs and Wilson, 1991).
Social ImpactTop of page
Large numbers of V. germanica workers attracted to food sources can affect the quality of life and render outdoor socializing an unpleasant experience (Spradbery, 1988). Schools in parts of Australia have been closed or eating outdoors banned because of wasp activity, while popular picnic and barbeque spots have been closed to the public due to high wasp densities. Sharing food outdoors in suburbia with family and friends when wasps are abundant can be a health hazard for many Australians and New Zealanders. While the nuisance value of the ‘wasp season’ in Europe may last a few weeks at most, in Australasia it continues for months and, with the propensity for this species to successfully overwinter, even all year round in some coastal regions.
Risk and Impact FactorsTop of page Invasiveness
- Proved invasive outside its native range
- Has a broad native range
- Abundant in its native range
- Highly adaptable to different environments
- Is a habitat generalist
- Tolerates, or benefits from, cultivation, browsing pressure, mutilation, fire etc
- Pioneering in disturbed areas
- Tolerant of shade
- Capable of securing and ingesting a wide range of food
- Highly mobile locally
- Benefits from human association (i.e. it is a human commensal)
- Long lived
- Fast growing
- Has high reproductive potential
- Altered trophic level
- Negatively impacts agriculture
- Negatively impacts human health
- Negatively impacts tourism
- Reduced amenity values
- Reduced native biodiversity
- Threat to/ loss of native species
- Antagonistic (micro-organisms)
- Induces hypersensitivity
- Highly likely to be transported internationally accidentally
- Difficult/costly to control
UsesTop of page
Species of Vespula and Vespa are used for human consumption in parts of southern Honshu, Japan, where the wasp pupae are an especially sought-after and tasty food which is rich in protein. Young Vespula nests are collected in early summer by enterprising wasp farmers and re-located to favourable sites such as greenhouses where they receive supplementary feeding and protection. When mature, the brood-filled combs are sold at local food markets. It is unlikely that such utilization would reduce the impact of V. germanica but the concept has some pecuniary potential for an enterprising entomocentric entrepreneur.
Similarities to Other Species/ConditionsTop of page
V. germanica is similar in appearance to the related Vespula vulgaris, but with some differences in markings. V. germanica has black dots in the yellow bands on the abdomen, and three black dots on the face, but V. vulgaris does not (OzAnimals, 2012).
Prevention and ControlTop of page
To prevent the movement of hibernating queens of V. germanica would require an impossibly efficient quarantine operation and cannot be considered a feasible option. Killing hibernating or post-hibernation queens to prevent them from establishing nests in the spring is unlikely to have much impact. Indeed, in Cyprus many years ago the government offered a bounty for queen wasps in the spring and after a programme which cost dearly, that year was the worst ‘wasp year’ on record (Spradbery, 1973). Similarly in New Zealand, a small bounty was offered for each hibernating queen, but with a negligible impact on subsequent wasp densities (Thomas, 1960). Culling such queens may even improve the rate of successful establishment of nests by reducing competition for limited nest sites in the spring.
Public awareness programmes can offer the most cost effective approach to wasp control. Such programmes educate the public about the pest, raise awareness of its importance through local media sources, provide information on identification and offer advice on detection and control options for wasps and their nests through a dedicated hotline telephone number. Such activities can result in the widespread and early detection and treatment of nests, hopefully before the production of new queens in late summer/autumn.
Once V. germanica has colonized an area and begun to consolidate, it is impossible to eradicate, especially if hibernating queens are constantly being re-imported from other infested centres through the movement of cargo. Eradication of V. germanica would entail discovering and treating every nest, including the very last one. Just one nest remaining undiscovered could produce several thousands of new queens to re-infest the area. The resources required for such an eradication programme would be intimidating. Eradication by genetic methods such as sterile male release does not appear to be a viable option for V. germanica.
Although biological control does not appear to be a potentially very useful option for V. germanica control, attempts have been made in Australasia by utilizing the ichneumonid parasitoid, Sphecophaga vesparum, which parasitizes Vespula brood in the nest. The initial releases were made in New Zealand with S. vesparum from the United States, later S. vesparumvesparum from Europe was used and also released in Victoria and Tasmania, Australia, and finally, S. vesparum burra from North America has more recently been introduced into New Zealand (Gullan, 1999). However, either the impact of the biotic agent has not been determined or the results have not been encouraging, despite its establishment. The other parasitic wasp species and the parasitic beetle, Metoecus paradoxus, which occur in colonies of Vespula species (Spradbery, 1973), do not seem to offer much encouragement for biological control programmes aimed at reducing the impact of V. germanica.
Numerous commercial and homemade traps, including a number based on plastic bottles, with a variety of baits, from fruit juices to stale beer, are available for wasp control. While they may capture some wasps, they are unlikely to have any real impact on local wasp populations. In a study undertaken in the United States more than 500,000 wasps were captured in traps but there was no apparent reduction in the intensity of foraging in the trapping area (Reierson and Wagner, 1975). Because of the wide range of materials collected by wasps to feed themselves and their larvae, providing a lure that is competitively attractive to foraging workers limits the usefulness of such traps. In Central Europe diluted syrup was effective in attracting V. germanica and other Vespula species to traps (Dvorak and Landolt, 2006). In the United States there is ongoing research into chemically defined lures for social wasps, often based on the break-down products of fermentation such as isobutanol, mixed with acetic acid (Landolt et al., 2000). Poison baiting has considerable potential in reducing wasp populations, especially in areas where locating wasp nests is particularly difficult. The bait must be attractive to wasps but not to beneficial insects such a honey bees. Most wasp baits that have been evaluated in New Zealand, Australia and South America have been of animal protein. Among products that have been shown to be effective are tinned fish such as sardines (Spurr, 1993), chicken mince (Conolly et al., 2004) and kangaroo meat mince (R Bashford, Forestry Tasmania, Australia, personal communication, 2008).
ReferencesTop of page
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ContributorsTop of page
10/06/08 Original text by:
Philip Spradbery, XCS Consulting, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia
Libor Dvorak, Municipal Museum Marianske Lazne, Goethovo namesti 11, 35301 Marianske Lazne, Czech Republic
Distribution MapsTop of page
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