The Median Wasp – More About The UK’s “Super Wasp“.
In the 1980s the median wasp was being branded the UK’s “Super Wasp” because of its size, or the black wasp because of its appearance. Does it deserve these labels? Well in a word, YES!
This is an aggressive species that has a prominent sting, measured extending 3mm from the abdomen. This allows it to deliver a painful sting that causes skin lesions to develop.
Most other social wasps will attack directly towards you – D. media will fly up into the air, check you out, then descend at speed to attack from the side and above.
The workers are much larger than the common wasp at 15-20mm, second only in size to the Hornet. The Median Wasp produces an oval or spherical nest which is dark grey or graphite in colour (variations to this rule are common) and is usually constructed in hedges and other similar vegetation.
It is commonly encountered by gardeners carrying out pruning. Pruning usually stops in a big hurry as these attack at great speed and pursue the victim until they no longer represent a threat.
Key features of the Median wasp include:
They are almost black, making these wasps easily recognisable and their orange legs appear similar to that of the European Hornet Vespa crabro.
Like the hornet, they are very large wasps, and although we do see variations in size, the average is around 20mm in length.
The vertical or median black stripe in the centre of its face gave this wasp its name and the abdomen has very thick black stripes with narrow yellow, sometimes reddish stripes.
Another key feature is the number 7 on either side of the thorax (the middle section). Take close look at the images above, and these distinctive markings are clear to see.
Widespread across central Europe, the median wasp is said to have appeared in the UK in the 1980s when it spread across the southern half of the country where it is now common in the south-west. It is likely that this wasp has been in the UK for much longer, and like most things, opinion is divided!
Median Wasps: A Case Study
We were called to assist an elderly couple in Backwell, just outside Bristol, after they reported being attacked by very large wasps.
On arrival, we were greeted by the wife of the man who had just been stung multiple times on the head, neck, face, arms and hands.
The gentleman’s wife described how her husband had been mowing the grass at the end of the garden. The garden was long and she had an unobstructed view, so could see him clearly, making good progress.
The lady said, “I was just doing some things in the kitchen, and when I looked up I could see my husband dancing at the end of the garden”!
Unfortunately for him, the fence he had just hit with his mower had a very large Median wasps nest hidden inside the ivy that covered it.
Within seconds he was surrounded, and poor mobility meant he was unable to escape fast enough to avoid the onslaught.
He was not there when we arrived as a neighbour had taken him to the doctors. He was very fortunate not to be in a more serious condition, but the psychological effects of being swarmed will almost always last a lifetime.