Common Wasp Fact File
The common wasp is a widespread species of wasp found in North America, Asia, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. A number of these populations are the result of introductions by humans.
At the end of their body is a stinger used to deliver a venom in to the body of threats which may cause an allergic reaction in humans. Threats are warned off this danger by their bold yellow and black coloration.
Common wasps are omnivores which feed on nectar, honeydew and insects.
They are a social species which live in colonies with up to thousands of members. Each colony is formed by a single queen who lays all of the eggs. Each spring new queens set out on a quest to form their own nest.
Learn more about these incredibly invertebrates by reading on below.
Across the abdomen the common wasp has bands of yellow and black skin. The black and yellow pattern continues across the thorax and face. This bold coloration serves as a warning to predators that they are dangerous.
An anchor shaped marking is present between the eyes which helps to determine these wasps against other species of wasps.
Protruding from the head are a pair of antennae which are long and robust.
On either side of the body is a wing which helps them to fly. At the tip of the abdomen is the sting. An obvious waist is present between the thorax and abdomen. The head is triangular in shape.
An average common wasp measures 10mm (0.5in) long. The Queens are larger than the worker wasps (non-breeding wasps). A queen may measure 20mm (1in) long.
The common wasp is an omnivore which feeds on nectar, honeydew and a range of invertebrates. They may also scavenge for dead animals such as chicken or fish.
While feeding they will move pollen around the environment making them an important part of the ecosystem.
Common wasps are native to Europe, North America and Asia. Here they can be found throughout China, India, Iran, Israel, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, North Korea, South Korea, Turkey, Austria, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Germany, Russia, Iceland, Ireland, Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Canada, Mexico and the United States.
This species has been introduced in New Zealand, Iceland, Australia and Saint Helena island.
They will make their home in forest, scrub and shrublands. Often this species can be found alongside humans in urban areas and managed areas such as plantations and orchards.
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Fertile males and females are produced from a colony in late autumn and spend winter resting before beginning their colony in spring. Between 1000 and 2000 queens may be produced from each colony.
Their nest is formed from wood fibers. This is chewed and formed by the common wasp in to regular-shaped cells known as combs in which the larva can be raised. In to each chamber they deposit a single egg.
Each egg hatches as a larvae after 5 to 8 days. These larvae undergo a number of molts and after 90 days spin a silk cap over the cell in which they can pupate. After 80 days in this cell an adult worker wasp emerges.
Common wasps form a colony which tends to nest below ground though they may be seen in hollow trees and even the wall cavities of man-made structures. Typically only a small hole is visible above ground.
Queens are responsible for egg laying. Their first few eggs produce workers who then take care of the nest leaving the queen to continue producing the eggs.
Once the reproductive young are produced in the autumn they fly off to a spot to overwinter and their original colony will pass away. By this point the nest may include 1000s of wasps.
Predators and Threats
A natural predator of the common wasp is the Argentine ant.
Common wasps carry a sting which to some humans can be fatal mainly due to a severe allergic reaction.
These wasps have benefited from human expansion which has allowed them to extend their range. They are accidentally transported in goods which are being traded around the world.
In much of their range they are subject to poison baiting to control their numbers.
In areas where they are introduced they will take food sources away from the native species. They also cause economic damage due to pest activity around forestry, agriculture and beekeeping.
Wasps are close relatives of the ants which have the ability to fly.
David Edwards, CC BY 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
A wild baguette, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
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Jeroen Ruël, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
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