Vespula vulgaris (wasp, common)
- Summary of Invasiveness
- Taxonomic Tree
- Distribution Table
- Habitat List
- Host Animals
- Biology and Ecology
- Natural enemies
- Means of Movement and Dispersal
- Pathway Causes
- Impact Summary
- Risk and Impact Factors
- Prevention and Control
- Principal Source
- Distribution Maps
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PicturesTop of page
IdentityTop of page
Preferred Scientific Name
- Vespula vulgaris (Linnaeus, 1758)
Preferred Common Name
- wasp, common
Other Scientific Names
- Dolichovespula vulgaris
- Paravespa vulgaris
- Paravespula vulgaris
- Vespa vulgaris
International Common Names
- English: common wasp; common yellowjacket; wasp, English
- Spanish: avispa comun
- French: guepe commune
Local Common Names
- Denmark: gedehams
- Finland: ampiainen, yleinen
- Germany: Gemeine Wespe; Wespe, Gemeine
- Iran: sanbure assal
- Italy: Vespa comune
- Netherlands: Wesp, gewone
- Norway: jordveps
- Sweden: geting, vanlig
- VESPVU (Vespa vulgaris)
Summary of InvasivenessTop of page
Vespula vulgaris (the common wasp) nest underground and in the cavities of trees and buildings. In addition to causing painful stings to humans, they compete with other insects and birds for insect prey and sugar sources. They will also eat fruit crops and scavenge around rubbish bins and picnic sites. This species has been nominated as among 100 of the "World's Worst" invaders.
Taxonomic TreeTop of page
- Domain: Eukaryota
- Kingdom: Metazoa
- Phylum: Arthropoda
- Subphylum: Uniramia
- Class: Insecta
- Order: Hymenoptera
- Family: Vespidae
- Genus: Vespula
- Species: Vespula vulgaris
DescriptionTop of page
Distinguishing marks on workers include a black mark behind the eye on the side of the head; an anchor-shaped or dagger-shaped mark on the "face"; yellow pronotal bands which are almost parallel; black dots and rings on the abdomen, which are usually fused. Males can only be reliably distinguished by examining the aedeagus (part of the genitals) under a microscope.
Please see PaDIL (Pests and Diseases Image Library) Species Content Page Wasps: English wasp Vespula vulgaris (Linnaeus) for high quality diagnostic and overview images.
DistributionTop of page
Native range: Holarctic species.
Known introduced range: Introduced to New Zealand and Australia.
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|
|Israel||Present||CAB ABSTRACTS Data Mining 2001|
|Korea, DPR||Present||Native||ISSG, 2011|
|Korea, Republic of||Present||Native||ISSG, 2011|
|Kyrgyzstan||Present||Native||Not invasive||ISSG, 2011|
|Saint Helena||Restricted distribution||Introduced||ISSG, 2011|
|Canada||Present||Present based on regional distribution.|
|-British Columbia||Present||Native||ISSG, 2011|
|-New Brunswick||Present||Native||ISSG, 2011|
|-Newfoundland and Labrador||Present||Native||ISSG, 2011|
|-Northwest Territories||Present||Native||ISSG, 2011|
|-Nova Scotia||Present||Native||ISSG, 2011|
|-Prince Edward Island||Present||Native||ISSG, 2011|
|-Yukon Territory||Present||Native||ISSG, 2011|
|-Hawaii||Absent, formerly present||Introduced||Invasive||ISSG, 2011|
|-New Mexico||Present||Native||ISSG, 2011|
|-New York||Present||CAB Abstracts|
|Czechoslovakia (former)||Present||CAB ABSTRACTS Data Mining 2001|
|Former USSR||Present||CAB Abstracts|
|Germany||Present||CAB ABSTRACTS Data Mining 2001|
|Ireland||Present||CAB ABSTRACTS Data Mining 2001|
|Netherlands||Present||CAB ABSTRACTS Data Mining 2001|
|Spain||Present||CAB ABSTRACTS Data Mining 2001|
|Sweden||Present||CAB ABSTRACTS Data Mining 2001|
|-England and Wales||Present||Native||ISSG, 2011|
|New Zealand||Present||Introduced||ISSG, 2011|
Habitat ListTop of page
|Terrestrial – Managed||Managed forests, plantations and orchards||Present, no further details|
|Urban / peri-urban areas||Present, no further details|
|Terrestrial ‑ Natural / Semi-natural||Natural forests||Present, no further details|
|Scrub / shrublands||Present, no further details|
Biology and EcologyTop of page
Common wasps collect protein and carbohydrate food. Honeydew and nectar are important food sources. They have a broad invertebrate diet with an emphasis on Diptera, Lepidoptera and Araneae. Notorious for their scavenging. Vespula wasps are also attracted to dead bait, such as chicken or fish meat (Toft and Harris, 2004).
Sexual. Males and queens produced in late autumn. Fertilised queens overwinter, and then start a new colony in early spring. The queen produces sterile females, called workers, throughout the season. Approximately 1000-2000 queens are produced per colony in autumn. Average colony density in New Zealand beech forest c. 12 per ha.
Annual colonies initiated in spring by one queen. Colony expands through season and then produces sexual stages in autumn, before colony breaks down. In each cell of a new nest, the queen lays a single egg, which hatches into a larvae in 5 to 8 days. After five moults over about 90 days (the length of time spent in each stage is determined by environmental conditions), each larva spins a silken cap over the cell and pupates. After about 80 days an adult worker wasp emerges.
Natural enemiesTop of page
|Natural enemy||Type||Life stages||Specificity||References||Biological control in||Biological control on|
|Sphecophaga vesparum||Parasite||New Zealand|
|Sphecophaga vesparum burra||Parasite||New Zealand|
Means of Movement and DispersalTop of page
Introduction pathways to new locations
Other: Queen wasps stowaway in human goods and accidentally transported.
Local dispersal methods
Natural dispersal (local): Queen wasps can fly between 30 - 70km per annum.
Impact SummaryTop of page
ImpactTop of page
Wasps impact a range of human activities and values, from conservation, forestry, beekeeping and horticulture sectors to human-health. Wasp stings are painful, but can also be life-threatening. A small proportion of the population will have a severe allergic reaction (called anaphylactic shock), which can be fatal unless treated promptly (Landcare Research, 2007).
In forests, wasps may eat huge numbers of native insects and consume large quantities of sugary honeydew. By eating so much, wasps take potential food sources away from native species and disrupt the natural food chain and ecosystem cycling of the forest (Landcare Research, 2007). To elaborate, in temperate beech forests in the South Island of New Zealand honeydew drops produced by beech scale insects (Ultracoelostoma assimile) feeding on beech trees (Nothofagus) are collected by introduced wasp species: the German wasp (Vespula germanica) and the common wasp (V. vulgaris). Moller and colleagues found that in relation to cropping by native honeyeater birds and native insects, cropping by German wasps and particularly by common wasps, significantly reduces the number, size and sugar concentration of honeydew drops (by up to 99.1%) in the summer and autumn months. Removal of the honeydew by the introduced social wasps threatens the existence of some New Zealand native animals (Moller et al., 1991).
Wasps bring with them a financial burden. They are economic pests of primary industries such as beekeeping, forestry and horticulture (Beggs, 2001). Wasps totally destroy or seriously affect 10% of beehives, which translates to a significant financial loss (Clapperton et al., 1989). Beehives are often placed near honeydew forests or other unique sources of nectar to produce strong-flavoured honey. However, wasps can reduce honey production by reducing nectar and honeydew supplies and cause honeybees to stay in the hive to conserve energy and protect the hive from raiding wasps (Landcare Research, 2007).
Risk and Impact FactorsTop of page Impact outcomes
- Negatively impacts agriculture
- Negatively impacts forestry
- Negatively impacts human health
- Negatively impacts livelihoods
- Threat to/ loss of native species
- Causes allergic responses
- Competition - monopolizing resources
- Highly likely to be transported internationally accidentally
Prevention and ControlTop of page
Complied by IUCN SSC Invasive Species Specialist Group (ISSG)
The early detection of establishing populations is important as the next line of defence after initial quarantine procedures. Landcare Research has conducted research into generalised invertebrate surveillance techniques in recognition of the gap in biosecurity surveillance. These include malaise traps, mini-malaise traps, window traps, sticky traps, pitfall traps, UV light traps, flat ant traps, baited ant pottles, spurr wasp traps, ground bottle traps, yellow pan traps and beating. Of these, malaise traps, mini-malaise traps, window traps, sticky traps (for small wasps), UV traps, spurr wasp traps and ground bottle traps were found to be effective at catching wasps. Please follow this link for descriptions of trapping methods.
As there is very little generalised surveying of invertebrates in high risk environments, the primary source of information on the establishment of new invertebrate species is often public observation (Landcare Research, 2007).
There are two ways of reducing a local wasp problem; either find and destroy all nests in the area, or use poison bait (Landcare Research, 2007). Manual destruction of nests over large areas of shrub land is likely to be difficult and labour intensive (Toft and Harris, 2004).
Poison baiting is widely used to control wasp populations as it has the advantage that foraging wasps carry the poison back to the nest, meaning it is unnecessary to locate nests or approach those that are very large or difficult to get close to (Landcare Research, 2007).
However although most baits show some degree of attraction to wasps, bait attraction can vary between different sites and regions, weather conditions and within a population throughout the wasp flight season (Harris et al, 1991; Spurr, 1995; Wood et al., 2006 in Sackmann and Corley, 2007). This variation may be influenced by the presence of other food sources, nest requirements and behavioural traits. Protein rich foods and carbohydrates are generally attractive to foraging wasps, but relative attractiveness may vary throughout the season due to changing nest requirements (D’Adamo and Lozada, 2005). However there is no universal commercial bait for wasp control (Sackmann and Corley, 2007).
In New Zealand poison must be mixed with protein-based bait, as carbohydrate baits risk poisoning bees. However at certain times wasps are not greatly attracted to protein baits, which can cause poisoning operations to fail (Beggs, 2001). Toxins such as 1080, sulfluramid and fipronil mixed with sardine catfood can be effective at controlling wasps. Fipronil is faster acting and equally as toxic at concentrations 1000 times lower than sulfluramid. Fipronil was found to reduce colony activity of Vespula spp. By 99.7% in treated areas (Harris and Etheridge, 2001).
In Hawaii when the wasp was discovered in 1977 nest eradication and control programmes were initiated on various islands. The toxicant bendiocarb was used in an attempt to control the wasp and used for nest eradication outside of agricultural situations (as it is not registered for agricultural use). Chang (1988) found that the most effective combination of bait and chemical toxicant was 0.5% microencapsulated diazinon mixed with canned Figaro brand tuna cat food. Amidino-hydrazone in a similar bait mix was also effective. Dispenser colour for the bait also proved critical: the preferred colour of bait dispenser being a translucent white.
Poison baiting can kill 80-100% of the colonies within a site. However reinvasion is extremely likely (Beggs, 2001). Wasps have been recorded foraging up to 4km from their nest (Coch, 1972 in Beggs, 2001). Even if the controlled site was very large, queen wasps which can fly 30-70km to find suitable nesting sites are highly likely to invade the following spring.
Biological control has been used in attempts to achieve widespread control of wasps. Icheumonid parasitoids Sphecophaga vesparum vesparum, S. v. burra and Sphecophaga orientalis have been utilised as biological control agents for V. germanica (Donovan et al., 1989, 2002; Beggs and Harris, 2000; Beggs et al., 2002). For more information on biological control of wasps please follow this link.
Some other general factors to consider: V. germanica constructs significantly larger nests in New Zealand (part of its introduced range) than it does in Europe; over-wintering of nests (i.e. re-using the same nest from one summer to the next) also occurs more frequently in New Zealand than in Europe (Fordham et al., 1991; Harris, 1996 in Ward et al., 2002). This suggests the wasp may be harder to control in areas of its introduced range.
Fordham et al. (1991) found that urban nests produced more workers and reproductive progeny (and had more combs per nest) compared to rural nests, a factor to consider when planning control strategies (Ward et al., 2002). Temperature variation may also affect the growth and impact of wasp colonies, for example, a slightly longer wasp-activity season exists in the warmer parts of Australia (Sydney) than in the cooler parts (Melbourne, Hobart) (Ward et al., 2002).
BibliographyTop of page
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- Reviewed by: Jacqueline Beggs, School of Biological Sciences. Tamaki Campus, University of Auckland. New Zealand.
- Last Modified: Sunday, May 31, 2009
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