Classification

Scientific name: Vespula vulgaris
Family: Vespidae

Description

Wasps (common wasps, German wasps, Tree wasps, Norwegian wasps, Cuckoo wasps, Red wasps and Hornet). Wasps vary in size depending on species. The common wasp is 12-17mm in length and the queen slightly larger. Some can be up to 30mm long. Many species are brightly coloured and have black, yellow and orange colour combinations to signify that they possess a powerful sting and should be avoided. Hornets are the largest wasps, but are relatively uncommon. Many species are thought to have originated in Europe and North Africa. Different species opt for different habitats. Some are subterranean, building large nests below ground, while other species inhabit cavities such as hollowed trees or voids in buildings. Often species will build in any cavity or structure where there is enough strength to support the nest. For e.g. the Tree wasp suspends its nest from the branches of trees, while the Norwegian wasp constructs small nests on twigs e.g. on gooseberry or hawthorn bushes.

Behaviour

Often regarded as beneficial, there is a species of wasp that preys on almost every pest, helping to control insect populations. There are 2 categories of wasp, Social wasps and Solitary wasps. Social wasps deliver nasty stings and live in colonies but many species are solitary insects that are non-stinging. Only female wasps have an ovipositor which allows them to sting. Wasps sting to defend their nest and can sting multiple times. They also sting in autumn when an overcrowded nest forces them to search for a sugary meal. 

Risks

The common wasp is a nuisance more than a threat but when the wasp senses danger it becomes aggressive defending the nest, sending out powerful pheromones to enlist the help of its colony to attack. For most people, a wasp sting is painful but wasps can sting repeatedly. If you are attacked by a large volume of wasps, the accumulation of venom can be fatal. Getting stung in the mouth or throat is dangerous and if allergic, a wasp sting requires immediate medical treatment.

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