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The German or European Wasp (Vespula germanica)

Vespula germanica

German Wasps join V. vulgaris as one of the two most abundant wasp species in the British Isles. It is widespread throughout the northern hemisphere and is now found in Australia, New Zealand, Africa, North America and Argentina.

The German Wasp: Key Features

Length: 12 – 20mm long

Body: Black and yellow with black spots on its abdomen

Face: Has three black spots on its face

Nest: Likes to nest in hollows in trees or in the ground etc with 5 – 10000+ individuals

Cast Characteristics:

Females are 12-16mm long, antennas consist of 12 segments and a 6 segmented abdomen is equipped with a modified ovipositor that doubles as a sting.

Males are 12-18mm long and have 13 segments to their antennas and an abdomen consisting of 7 segments without a sting.

Queens, as you would expect, are larger at 17-20mm long and despite their ability to lay eggs, they can still use their ovipositor as a sting.

Nesting Behavior

Vespula germanica prefers lowland environments, thriving with (arthropods) insects on which to feed the wasp larvae.

Nests are built in subterranean cavities and man-made cavities like garden sheds, lofts and even childrens playhouses!

The nest is made with chewed up wood pulp mixed with saliva and is greyish in colour reaching football size with a diameter of 30cm (12in) that contains over 10,000 individuals.

german wasps nest
German wasps are paper wasps as this image shows.

In the northern hemisphere, environmental conditions take their toll and once abandoned in the autumn it quickly disintegrates.

In warmer climates such as Africa, Australia and New Zealand, the nest may continue to grow over consecutive seasons. This results in significant nests with over 100,000 individuals that are potentially very dangerous.

It usually nests underground, or in the loft spaces and other cavities of dwellings. It’s also aggressive, demanding caution when in close proximity to nests.

When entering a loft space in the summer and autumn it is prudent to leave a light on for a few minutes to see if wasps from a hidden nest approach it.

The Sting Of Vespula Germanica

The sting of German wasps is fairly painful, and the wasps have been seen grinding the sting into a victim.

In keeping with all UK wasps, V. germanica does not have a barbed sting. Paper wasps can sting you multiple times with no adverse effect on itself.

The sensation is what you might imagine a burning needle feels like when injected into your skin. Although the pain is temporary, on a scale of one to ten, it would rate as a six or above depending on where you were stung!

Once stung you will immediately see localised swelling and a raised white patch of skin will be prominent with the red sting site at its centre that often bleeds slightly.

Venom extraction devices work better than any other form of remedy we have tried, and we’ve tried quite a few.

The swelling and any remaining pain soon give way to intense itching. After 2 – 7 days discomfort has usually gone.

We are all different, and the ways in which our bodies react to a given antigen will vary. The outcomes of stings can be severe, especially for those at risk of anaphylactic shock. Never be afraid to alert qualified medical professionals if you have concerns.

Do German Wasps Attack British Bees?

We’ve seen German wasps around hives, but never in numbers that could be detrimental to the colony. These wasps could make short work of honey bees however, European Hornets would pose more of a problem.

How To Get Rid Of German Wasps

German wasps as previously described are robust and produce massive nests with a formidable temperament.

Many different products exist to eliminate wasps. The product of choice and method of choice will depend on the location. Ficam D made by Bayer is the wasp control product of choice in the UK.

Any mature nest in a confined space could easily kill an unsuspecting or poorly prepared person. We have direct experience of customers falling through ceilings, so don’t take chances!

Professional control costs the same as a night out, and might just save your life. Wasps are amazing insects so consider control only if absolutely necessary.

German Wasps Vs Common Wasps

In contrast, the German wasp is larger than the Common wasp. We have also felt Vespula germanica was more aggressive and found nesting in the ground more often. To the untrained eye, little else of any consequence is different.

What Is “WASP” In German?

Random, but someone asked, so in Germany, wasps are called “WESPE”.

References

BWARS – The Bees Wasps and Ants Recording Society

Bristol Wasp Control Services – Local Places And Areas We Cover

Bristol – Clevedon – Portishead – St Annes – St Pauls – Bath – Sneyd Park – Fishponds – Eastville – Easton – Frenchay – Filton – Westbury – Stoke Bishop – Stoke Park – Southville – Long Ashton – Patchway – Bradley Stoke