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Wasps Intro

Wasps (Vespidae)

Family Name
Vespidae is the family name for wasps, yellow jackets and hornets.

General Characteristics
Adults grow up to 30mm long and have two pairs of membranous wings, the rear pair smaller than the front pair.  Metamorphosis is complete, comprising egg, larval, pupil and adult stages.

Pest control
Wasps flying in the home can be dealt with by insecticidal sprays from aerosol cans.

Nests are located by careful observation of the insect’s activity.  They should only be approached by experienced pest controllers wearing suitable protective clothing.  Nests can be treated with insecticidal powders or smoke or by a liquid spray.

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Species Characteristics
Click on the name to see the species characteristics of the different wasp varieties of Northern Europe and their nesting habits.

  Common Wasp - Vespula (Paravespula) vulgaris

Common Wasp - Vespula (Paravespula) vulgaris
Nests underground and in cavities in trees and buildings

  German Wasp - Vespula (Paravespula) germanica

German Wasp - Vespula (Paravespula) germanica
Nests underground and in cavities in trees and buildings.

  Tree Wasp - Vespula (Dolichovespula) sylvestris

Tree Wasp - Vespula (Dolichovespula) sylvestris
Nests are suspended from tree branches or constructed underground.

  Norwegian Wasp - Vespula (Dolichovespula) norvegica

Norwegian Wasp - Vespula (Dolichovespula) norvegica
Constructs small nests on twigs on, for example, gooseberry bushes or hawthorns.

  Cuckoo Wasp - Vespula austriaca

Cuckoo Wasp - Vespula austriaca
Is parasitic and lays its eggs in the nest of Red Wasps.

  Red Wasp - Vespula rufa

Red Wasp - Vespula rufa
Nests underground.

  Hornet - Vespa crabro

Hornet - Vespa crabro
The largest of all wasps but relatively uncommon, they nest in hollow trees or occasionally buildings.

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Significance as a pest
In some respects, wasps can be seen as beneficial as they aid insect control and pollination. They are undoubted scavengers, however, eating fruits such as apples, pears and plums. In addition, they collect wood to build their nests, damaging fences, garden furniture and the wooden fabric of buildings.

Wasps become a particular nuisance at the end of summer when the workers no longer need to collect food for the young and follow their passion for sweet and sugary foodstuffs. At such times, they will enter premises such as kitchens and bakeries.

The main reason wasps are so disliked is their ability to sting humans. Their sting is haemolytic, haemorrhagic and neurotoxic and histamine causes swellings and redness.

Wasp stings around the throat can lead to respiratory difficulties. There is also the risk of anaphylactic shock inducing symptoms including respiratory distress, faintness, itching rash, swelling of the face and vomiting with abdominal pain, cramp or diarrhoea.

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