Belongs to: bees and wasps

Compare with: honey bee

Common wasp Vespula vulgaris

Also known as: yellow-jacket


Best time to see: Apr to mid Oct

Key facts

Yellow-and-black insects, most noticeable in late summer biting holes in fruit or trying to get at sugared drinks

Social insects like ants and honey bees, with a queen supported by many female workers and a few males for mating

There are several species of social wasp in Britain, this being the commonest and the hornet the largest at c. 35mm long

Recognition

Yellow-and-black colouring is a warning to potential predators such as birds that they are dangerous and best left alone

Males are larger than workers and appear in late summer, when they can often be seen feeding on nectar

Young are fed on grubs, caterpillars and small insects collected by workers; adults feed on nectar and other sugary foods

Lifecycle

Nest can be up to football-sized, spherical, with horizontal tiers of comb made of paper, i.e. chewed-up wood

The colony dies out in the autumn and only the young queens survive, hibernating in secluded corners

Queens wake up in spring and start a new nest, suspended from a wooden support, that grows through the summer

  • Main photo
  • in nest

Photo © Tony Gunton

Photo © David Corke