Common Wasp

Common Wasp ©Mike Snelle

Common Wasp

Scientific name: Vespula vulgaris
Renowned for ruining picnics and its fearsome sting, the black-and-yellow Common Wasp is not a well-loved insect. Yet, it is an important pollinator and pest controller, so can be a gardener's friend.

Species information

Statistics

Length: up to 2cm

Conservation status

Common.

When to see

April to October

About

A familiar insect of UK summers, the black-and-yellow Common Wasp is a frequent visitor to gardens, often building its large nest in the cavities in houses and roofs. It is a social wasp, living in large colonies within a nest built out of 'paper' that is formed by the queen chewing up wood. Inside the nest, sterile workers hatch and look after the new young produced by the queen. At the end of summer, reproductive males and queens develop and leave the nest to mate. The males and previous queen die, and the new females hibernate, ready to emerge next spring and start the cycle again. Common Wasps catch a wide variety of invertebrates, mainly to feed to their larvae; they feed themselves on high-energy substances like nectar, rotten fruit and sugary picnics!

How to identify

The Common Wasp has a black-and yellow-striped body, with an obvious 'waist' between the thorax and abdomen. It has a characteristic black 'anchor' mark on its face. There are several species of social wasp in the UK that can only be distinguished by their face patterns - if you fancy getting that close!

Distribution

Widespread.

Did you know?

The related Median Wasp, Dolichovespula media, is a recent colonist from Europe. It is larger than our native Common Wasp, with yellow spots on its red-tinged thorax, and wider black stripes on its abdomen. It builds smaller, hanging nests in trees and bushes.

How people can help

The Wildlife Trusts work with pest controllers to find the most wildlife-friendly solutions to some of our everyday problems. Indeed, many of our often-overlooked insects are important pollinators for all kinds of plants, including those which we rely on like fruit trees. The Wildlife Trusts recognise the importance of healthy habitats to support all kinds of species throughout the food chain, so look after many nature reserves for the benefit of wildlife. You can help too: volunteer for your local Wildlife Trust and you could be involved in everything from coppicing to craft-making, stockwatching to surveying.