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Insect  Social Wasps

Wasp - Photo  Copyright 2001 Gary Bradley
Photo: G. Bradley

UK Safari Tip:
Find out more about wasps and other invertebrates with the fully illustrated fold out chart called "Bugs on Bushes" - click here

Latin name: Vespula vulgaris

Size: Around 2cms long.

Distribution: Found throughout the UK.

Months seen: April to late October

Habitat: Often found nesting in houses.

Food: Anything sweet or sugary like fruit or the saliva produced by wasp larvae.

Special features: Although there are several different species of social wasps in Britain, this is the one most frequently seen.

Common wasps live in a colony which can contain up to 2,000 other wasps. Each colony consists of:

Queen - who lays all the eggs
Larvae - The young wasps which hatch from the queen's eggs
Workers - who catch and kill the food for the larvae
Drones - whose main purpose is to mate with the queen.


Close up of wasp's nestThe wasp nest is normally built underground, or sometimes under the eaves or in the attics of buildings. It is made from paper which the wasps create by chewing wood into a pulp.

In spring and early summer, the workers go out to sting caterpillars, flies and other insects which they bring back to the nest as food for the developing larvae. The larvae in turn produce a sweet saliva which the adults drink.

By the end of summer the wasp larvae will have transformed into adult males and queens. The queen stops laying eggs, and usually dies. Without larvae, the other wasps have no food, and so they leave the nest in search of alternatives, such as fruit and nectar.

Click for a better viewOnce mated, the new queens fly off to find a place to hibernate through the winter. The following year each one that survives the winter will start a new colony.


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  2006 G. Bradley. All Rights Reserved