Pest Library Entry:
Common Pest Species:
European Paper Wasp (Polistes dominula)
Northern Paper Wasp (Polistes fuscatus)
German Yellow Jacket (Vespula germanica)
Active Times: Day (Except for Hornets which can be nocturnally active)
Wasps include yellow jackets and hornets in the family of eusocial wasps which comprise a colony. Wasps are closely related to bees and ants who also maintain nest colonies. Although there are solitary wasp species, most pest species of wasp are generally in the family of eusocial wasps. Eusociality is the term to describe high levels of social caste hierarchy within a species over generations such as ants, bees, and wasps.
All three common eusocial wasp species mentioned here generally have a black body with bright yellow legs and yellow stripes on the abdomen. These markings may differ due to geographical differences for the species. Many eusocial wasp species are also venomous, and can inject venom via a stinger. This venom is usually used for prey, mating, and defense purposes. A fatality from a wasp sting would most likely occur from many stings by an entire colony whose nest has been disturbed, causing a severe allergic reaction. Many people suffer just localized pain and swelling from a few stings.
Paper wasps generally build nests high in the branches of trees or in the eaves of homes. The nests are made up of individual cells and are comprised of woody plant material gathered from their surroundings such as tree bark or wood decks.
Yellow Jacket nests are generally found below ground. Invasive species such as the German yellow jacket have been known to create large nests within attics or in the voids of walls within a home. Since this species is known for it’s aggressive tendencies in defending the nest, such nests in the home create a hazardous situation to homeowners.
Of three common pest species listed for eusocial wasp, two are invasive species from Europe and the third North American species has slowly been being replaced as the common species for the last decade or so. Many such invasive species tend to be more aggressive, reproduce faster, and have larger colony sizes than their native counterparts they are forcing out.
Reproduction: Since these are eusocial wasp species which live in colony nests and have a queen, there are differences in life cycles between members in a colony depending on the species. The life cycle of an entire colony is also taken under consideration. The average lifespan for a eusocial wasp is around 1 year due to most members within a colony dieing off with the rest of the nest colony while the Queen hibernates and reproduces under the normal patterns of a colony life cycle. Some species have smaller to drastically different changes in which roles each member plays in a colony and how the queen reproduces.
For instance some species of Paper wasps can have up to 200 colony members within a nest, while the German yellow jacket can have over 15,000 colony members within a nest. Early Spring to Summer is when many queen mating and colony building (egg laying/hatching) occurs. Spring to Summer being the most active times for Wasps due to mating and resource availability.
Diet: Omnivorous (Eats insects, plant materials such as nectar and pollen).
Diseases: N/A but a risk for anaphylactic shock from multiple stings is a health hazard for some.