Insecta Hymenoptera

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Life cycle

  • Colonies are started in the spring when a single mated wasp queen constructs a small nest and lays her eggs
  • Eggs hatch into grub-like larvae, which develop into pupae.
  • The queen tends the immature stages until they emerge as worker wasps (sterile females) in late spring/early summer
  • The first batch of worker wasps take over nest construction and rearing of larvae, while the queen lays eggs
  • Over the summer, the nest grows in size and number of wasps, reaching a peak in early autumn, when male wasps (drones) and new queens are produced
  • The new drones and queens mate and fly off to start new nests
  • In its native habitat in Europe, the European wasp nests then decline and die out during the winter. However, in Australia’s warm climate, the nests may survive the winter and continue to grow over a number of seasons. This can result in giant nests of tens of thousands of wasps.
  • The life cycle of the Paper wasp is similar to that of the European wasp, except that the nests typically contain only 12 to 20 individuals


Unlike bees, wasps can sting repeatedly and do not die after stinging. Stings are extremely painful, and can be very dangerous if the victim is allergic or if multiple stings occur. European wasps are attracted to human food, and are therefore often found around human habitation.


  • Knockdown sprays and nest treatments are recommended. Treatment of the nest should be carried out at night, when they are less active. Wear clothing which covers the entire body, and use a torch covered in red cellophane (wasps cannot see red light).

Prevention of bites

  • Reduce available food -European wasps are attracted to sweet foods and liquids, and also proteins (e.g. pet food)
  • Be wary of wasps when eating outside, and avoid drinking from opened bottles and cans – wasps have been known to enter an open drink can and may then be swallowed accidentally
  • Do not approach wasp nests
  • For multiple stings, a sting in the throat or if allergic to wasp stings, seek urgent medical aid. Otherwise apply an ice pack or anaesthetic spray
Identification Description Habitat Danger Level Distribution

European wasp, Vespula germanica

image Bright yellow and black striped abdomen Workers 12 – 15 mm long Queens and males 20 mm long Active during the day Attracted to human foodstuffs Distribution
NESTS: In the ground, rockeries, tree stumps, wall cavities and roof voids Prefer to nest around human habitation Nests may be 15 cm up to 5 m Nests may contain many thousand wasps
Can sting repeatedly Aggressive May attack in large numbers Stings are painful and inflammatory Throughout Australia (except tropical) Introduced species

Common paper wasp, Polistes humilis

image Tan with darker stripes 10 – 15 mm long Active during the day Not attracted to human foodstuffs
NESTS: Small, papery nest, hanging from horizontal surface (e.g. window sills, awnings, shrubs) Maximum nest size 10 – 12 cm Nests contain 12 – 20 wasps
Can sting repeatedly Aggressive if nest is threatened but seldom attack unless provoked Painful stings Throughout Australia Native species