Common Wasps and German Wasps

Both species are common throughout Britain. They are social insects, forming colonies inside nests specially constructed in the ground, in cavities, trees and walls, and very frequently in roof spaces. They are therefore, frequently associated with domestic housing. Wasps are approx. 15 to 25mm long and have the famous black and yellow stripes. It is probably the only insect that everybody from a very young to a very old age knows instantly what it is and what it is capable of doing, delivering painful and sometimes fatal stings.

Public Health Significance

Many wasps visit dustbins, waste depots and sometimes dead animal bodies and may possibly spread disease this way. They are mainly known for their high nuisance value in late summer. They sting more and more often when the wasps become irritable with the onset of cooler weather. They can be considered a pest in other ways such as collecting wood to construct nests thus possibly damaging the wooden fabric of buildings. Wasps can be a nuisance when they enter kitchens. In large numbers they contaminate foodstuffs. Staff will be disturbed or even stung, sometimes halting production. Unexpected road accidents have been attributed to the distraction of drivers by wasps. The wasps sting can be withdrawn, with bees it cannot. Stings around the throat can lead to respiratory obstruction. Alternatively they can be directly toxic and can become very serious indeed. Normally from a mass wasp attack. The main hazard is the risk of ‘anaphylactic shock’ arising from repeated stings or even a single one, which may lead to death. Symptoms may be rapid.

How to recognise an infestation

Early in the year around May, you will notice large wasps (queens) flying around eaves windows and generally being a nuisance, she has probably just come out of hibernation and looking for a site for a new nest. May early June small cream coloured ‘cones’ like golf balls, will appear hanging from shed roofs and rafters in lofts, these may indicate a new nesting site.

If left, the ‘cones’ gets bigger with a lot of wasp activity as the summer progresses. German wasps build their nest outside in bushes, trees or in the ground and will be a pale grey colour. Midsummer onwards, you notice large numbers of wasps flying around rooftops, eaves, walls, garden sheds and entering and leaving one particular spot.

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