The European wasp (Vespula germanica) is one of the most invasive insect pests globally, with major incursions in New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Chile, Argentina, the USA and Canada. Because this social wasp species thrives in suburbia as well as wilderness areas, it has a profound impact on humans as well as the environment.

European wasps are bright yellow and black, with bright yellow legs. They are predominantly black on their front with bright yellow markings, and bright yellow on their back with black stripes, and black dots between the stripes down each side of the abdomen, sometimes joining the stripes.

Wasp nests are established by single queens in spring, and by mid-autumn successful nests are busy rearing the new generation with a potential output of over 7,000 new queens per nest.

European wasp nests

European wasp nests occur primarily in the ground and are easily sighted due to the constant wasp activity above the nest, although the entrance hole may be well hidden amongst vegetation. Wasps also build nests in the cavity of walls and roof spaces of buildings and will excavate the plaster board to extend the space for their nest. Nests in buildings can also be identified by a constant stream of wasps going to and from a particular location.

European wasps are attracted to sweet drinks, food, insects and pet food, and will also forage on road kill. Residents are advised to feed their pets indoors if wasps are present. European wasps can be very aggressive if disturbed.

Entrance Hole to wasp nest

The ACT Government treats European wasp nests on Government land. If a wasp nest is on your property, it is your responsibility to have it removed by a qualified pest control operator. People should not attempt to treat the nest themselves as they risk being stung.

The ACT Government also contracts Core Enviro Solutions to provide the European wasp advice and insect identification service. This is a free service to all members of the public and provides advice on European wasps including:

  • assistance in identification of wasps
  • first aid for wasp stings
  • reporting of wasp nests on public land.

If you require any advice on European wasps or would like to report a wasp nest on government land, contact CoreEnviro Solutions' free European wasp hotline via their website or 6258 5551.

The Asian Paper wasp, Polistes chinensis antennalis, was discovered for the first time in Canberra in 2010 and its presence confirmed during 2011 with sightings in Pialligo, Fyshwick and Kingston. This Paper wasp species is considered highly invasive when introduced to new geographical areas, especially in urban environments. It was introduced accidentally to New Zealand in 1979 and has spread and become common throughout both the North and South islands. It has also become established on Norfolk Island and in some inner Sydney suburbs. Its native range includes China, Korea, Japan and Mongolia.

The Asian Paper wasp competes with native insects for food and can significantly reduce populations of prey species such as butterflies and may impact adversely on pollinator species. However, they also collect caterpillars of pest species to feed their brood. This wasp may compete with honeybees and native birds at nectar and honeydew sources. It will compete directly with the local Australian native Paper wasp, Polistes humilis, which has similar nesting and feeding habits.

Because it builds its nests on man-made structures as well as hidden in bushes, trees and shrubs, the Asian Paper wasp species is considered a significant public nuisance by stinging people when nests are disturbed. In an Auckland survey, the greatest numbers of insect stings recorded was by the Asian Paper wasp species.

The nests of Polistes chinensis antennalis are similar to those constructed by the local Paper wasp, Polistes humilis, but the adults are a vivid black and yellow color compared with the dull brown of the native Paper wasp species.

The eWasp mobile app is an easy-to-use GPS mapping tool that allows the user to pin the location of a European wasp nest, on public or private land. The main map will display reported and untreated European wasp nests on public land, when the nest is treated, the pin will disappear from the map. Private land reporting will not be displayed on the map.

Users have access to wasp and bee identification; safety tips; first aid; European wasp hotline emergency contact details and a list of pest control companies in the area on the website.

Download the app:
Android (Google Play)
iPhone (App Store)

wasp and bee identification chart

The common honey bee appears bulkier than wasps with fatter legs and a fuzzy dull yellow/brown appearance.

European wasps have prominent black and yellow stripes with black spots down their abdomen

Asian Paper wasps appear more black than European wasps with a thinner abdomen.

Paper wasps are similar in size and shape to the Asian paper wasp but are brown in colour.

If stung, the recommended first aid for a wasp or bee sting is an ice pack to reduce the pain and swelling. However, if people are stung in the mouth, experience difficulty in breathing, or develop an itchy rash, seek medical help immediately. The CoreEnviro Solutions website contains comprehensive first aid information applicable to wasps and bees.

Thanks to the team at eWasp here is a comparison image of a Queen, Drone and also a Worker wasp.

Comparison of Queen, Drone, and Worker wasps

European wasps have the same markings. The only way to tell them apart is by body shape and size with the Queen being the biggest.

Approximate sizes are: Queen 20mmm, Drone 16mm and Worker 12mm.