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European Wasp

Animal Species: European Wasp

The European Wasp was first found in Australia in 1959 in Tasmania. By 1978 they were also known in Victoria, South Australia, New South Wales and Western Australia, and are now firmly established in the riverina area.



Identification

European Wasps are a stout wasp with a bright yellow and black banded abdomen, and a pair of black spots on each yellow band. They have two pairs of clear wings with the first pair larger. They have black antennae and fly with their legs held close to the body.

Habitat

European Wasps are found in large communal nests, normally only visible as a small entrance hole. They are normally built either underground or in cavities in walls, ceilings, logs or trees. The nests are made from chewed wood fibre.





Other behaviours and adaptations

European Wasps' nests, which are made out of chewed wood fibre, can be found in ceilings, wall cavities, logs, tree trunks and soil.

Life cycle

European Wasp colonies are started in spring by a single fertilised queen, which lays an egg in a number of cells in the nest. These hatch into grub-like larvae and are tended by the queen for a number of weeks. They become the first batch of workers that take over nest construction and rearing of the larvae while the queen concentrates on laying eggs. The nest grows throughout the summer until a batch of males and new queens are hatched in the autumn. These mate and fly off to start new nests. In Europe the nest then disintegrates, but in Australia's warm climate the nest can continue to grow over a number of seasons. This results in giant and potentially dangerous nests of over 100,000 wasps.

Danger to humans and first aid

European Wasps are more aggressive than bees and will attack when their nests are disturbed. Unlike bees, wasps can sting more than once, and do not die after stinging. The sting causes a burning pain and swelling. If stings are multiple, a more severe systemic reaction may occur.

In some individuals, wasp, bee and ant stings can cause an allergic reaction (anaphylaxis), but this is relatively uncommon. Effective treatment is available, which involves known bee/ant/wasp sting allergy sufferers carrying a special kit when outdoors. Immunotherapy or desensitisation is also available, and can reduce the severity of the allergy. Seven deaths over a twenty-year period attributed to wasp stings have been recorded in Australia, mainly amongst known allergy sufferers who were not carrying their preventative medicine with them.

A cold pack may be used to relieve the pain of the sting. If there is evidence of a more severe reaction or the sting victim is known to be allergic to wasp and bee venom, medical attention should be sought immediately.