European or English wasp  (Vespula Vulgaris & Vespula germanica)

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yellow jack or social wasp  (Vespula)


0.7 to 1.0 inch (1.8 to 2.5 cm) long wasps

Habits - gather fibers from dead wood and plant stems, which they mix with saliva, and use to construct water-resistant nests made of gray or brown papery material. Paper wasps are also sometimes called umbrella wasps, due to the distinctive design of their nests.

Unlike yellowjackets and hornets, which can be very aggressive, polistine paper wasps will generally only attack if they themselves or their nest are threatened. Since their territoriality can lead to attacks on people, and because their stings are quite painful and can produce a potentially fatal anaphylactic reaction in some individuals, nests in human-inhabited areas may present an unacceptable hazard.


  • Worker - 1/2 inch long. 
  • Queen - 3/4 inch long. 
  • Alternating black and yellow bands. 
  • Two sets of wings. 
  • Narrow waist. 
  • Lance-like stinger.


  • Annual colonies. 
  • Queen begins to nest in Spring. 
  • Aggressive numbers in late Summer. 
  • Colonies begin to decline by Fall. 
  • Only inseminated Queens nest over Winter.


  • Feeding – at certain times of the year feed on insects including caterpillars / harmful flies, as colonies increase they are attracted to food consumed by humans. 
  • Sting – sting repeatedly, will sting if provoked with symptoms range from swelling to life-threatening allergic shock. 
  • Visibility – visible during the day as they don't see well at night. 
  • Nesting - in trees / shrubs, or internally in attics, hollow walls/ flooring, sheds, under porches/eaves of buildings.


  • Yellow and black body, marking varies according to species.
  • Workers vary in size from 12 – 17mm.

Key Facts

  • Only young Queens survive over winter and emerge in the spring to start nest building and lay eggs.
  • Workers (sterile females) emerge during early summer and take over nest building. Queen continues to lay eggs.
  • New queens and males mate in early autumn.
  • Nest dies during winter, including all the males and workers.
  • Wasps do not swarm.
  • Food preferences — will take insects and sweet foods.
  • Females sting readily and repeatedly.
  • A colony may have as many as 25,000 individual wasps.

papernest wasp  (Vespula)

Wasps can also be confused with bees, in particular Honey Bees - however these vary in colour from golden brown to almost black and are furrier than wasps.

Only female wasps have a sting which they can use repeatedly, if they feel under threat. In most cases a wasp sting causes no long term harm, but it can be life threatening if you are allergic to stings. Treating a wasp nest is often the most efficient way to control a wasp problem and reduce the threat of stings.

Wasps can build nests outdoors under eaves or, if they can gain access, they can find sheltered areas inside your home, such as wall cavities, roof spaces and attics.  If a nest is discovered you shouldn’t attempt to get rid of it yourself; you should call our qualified Technician.

Symptoms of a wasp sting
Unlike a bee, which can only sting once (and leaves the stinger behind in the skin), the wasp can sting repeatedly. It also emits a scent chemical (pheromone) that alerts other wasps to attack, never kill or squash a Wasp when other wasps are about as they emit a scent that alerts the other wasps to attack the predator.

The sting of a wasp has certain features, including:

  • Burning pain
  • Raised lump
  • Redness
  • Local inflammation.

Severe allergic reactions
Although they are painful, isolated wasp stings seldom cause serious problems. However, the venom contains toxins that can cause allergic reactions in susceptible people. Around one in 10 people who are stung two or more times become allergic, which means they will experience severe reactions to any subsequent stings. The most severe allergic reaction of all is anaphylaxis, which may be life threatening.

Symptoms of anaphylaxis may include:

  • Itchy, burning or reddened skin
  • Swelling to the mouth, tongue or throat
  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing
  • Noisy breathing
  • Abdominal cramps or nausea
  • Sudden feeling of weakness or collapse
  • Increased heart rate
  • Palpitations, chest pain or tightness
  • Strange metallic taste in the mouth
  • Children may be pale and floppy
  • Unconsciousness.

If someone is suffering from the above symptoms call an Ambulance by dialling 000.

When to call an ambulance (000)
You should seek urgent medical attention if:

  • A child is stung more than 5 times
  • An adult is stung more than 10 times
  • Anyone is stung in the mouth or throat, as swelling in these areas can block the airways
  • There is a severe allergic reaction
  • There is a history of an allergic reaction to European wasp stings.

First aid for less severe stings
First aid steps for less severe stings include:

  • Clean the affected area with soap and warm water.
  • Use a cold pack to reduce swelling and pain.
  • Use pain-relieving medication and creams.
  • Be alert for signs of anaphylaxis (see Severe allergic reactions above).
  • Prolonged swelling at the site of the sting may respond to antihistamines – see your pharmacist for further advice.