Common Wasp (Vespula vulgaris)


Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera   
Family:    Vespidae
Size:    Length: ½ inch to ¾ inch (1.27 to 1.9 cm)
Weight: Unknown
Diet: Fruit, flower nectar and tree sap
Distribution: Northern Hemisphere
Young:  Up to 300 eggs per day
Animal Predators:  Unknown
IUCN Status: No special status
Terms: Group: Swarm  Male: Drone  Young: Grub
Lifespan: Approximately 4 weeks for drones and workers, 10 months for queens



·         Wasps can sting repeatedly, while honeybees sting only once before dying.

·         Wasps fly only 6 to 7 mph, so humans can outrun them, but wasps are drawn to moving objects so the best way to avoid being stung is to stand still.

·         They almost never sting when in enclosed spaces such as a car or house.

·         Wasp colonies can contain as many as 20,000 wasps. 

·         Wasp colonies can consume as much as two kilograms of insects per day.

·         Wasp stings are fatal to about 1% of the population, due to the allergic reactions to the histamine in the wasp venom, which dissolves red blood cells. 



Wasps are also called yellow jackets because they are yellow, with black stripes and markings. Common wasps have a distinct anchor-shaped colouration called a mask on their head. Masks are used to distinguish between wasp species. Only females have stingers, which are located at their hind end. 



Common wasps are found throughout Canada and the U.S., except for the most northerly regions. They are also found in various areas of Europe and Asia. 


Feeding Habits

Adult wasps eat foods high in sugars and carbohydrates, including overripe fruit that has fallen from trees, nectar from flowers and tree sap. Although adults feed primarily on items rich in sugars and carbohydrates, the larvae feed on proteins from sources such as insects, meat and fish. Adult workers chew and condition the meat fed to the larvae. They do not store food for the winter. 



The queen mates with several drones and stores their sperm in her body. In late spring, the queen wasp comes out of hibernation and builds a small nest in which to lay her eggs. She lays unfertilized eggs that become the male workers—drones—and fertilized eggs that will be sterile female workers or queens, depending on the diet they are fed. The queen keeps laying eggs until 4,000 to 5,000 workers exist within the nest by late summer. They go through a complete metamorphosis from egg to larva, to pupa and finally adult. The first stage is when they hatch into larvae, and the queen gathers food in the form of insects to feed them. The larvae pupate 18 to 20 days later. In another week or two, the pupae develop into workers who will enlarge and defend the nest, and bring back food to the new larvae and to the queen. The adults’ food preference changes from an insect diet to a fruit and sugar diet, getting a portion of their food from the larvae, which secrete a sugar substance. By the end of summer, the old queen stops laying eggs and dies, and because there are no more larvae, the other adults’ food supply is cut short. The drones and workers die from lack of food and/or cold, while the new queen stores up fat and hibernates until the next spring.



These wasps live in social societies run on a caste system. The colony is made up of drones (males who mate with the queen), sterile females (workers who build the nest and defend it), and is led by one or more queens (fertilized female). The queen builds a new nest in the spring with a material referred to as wasp paper, which she makes by chewing pieces of wood mixed with her saliva. This forms a type of paste that dries into a strong paper shell, forming the exterior of the nest. Inside the nest are combs, similar to that of bees but used only for the queen to lay her eggs. From the eggs are hatched worker wasps, who then begin to enlarge the nest. The young queens hibernate in a warm area either within a quiet spot in a house (an attic or basement), in a tree trunk, a hollow log or soil. It is rare, but not unheard of, for wasps to survive during a mild winter and to keep using their nest the next year. Wasps vigorously defend when their nests are disturbed. 



Common wasps are abundant in their range. 



European Wasp Wildlife Fact File, IM Pub, US