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European Wasps

How to identify a European Wasp

The European wasp is about the same size as a honeybee with a lot less hair than a bee. They can be identified by their bright yellow legs and body, along with triangular markings on the abdomen and black antennae.

How European Wasps pose a threat

Unlike a bee, the European wasp can sting multiple times. The sting results in fiery pain and red swelling.

Where European Wasps live

European Wasps are found in large communal nests, usually only visible as a small entrance hole. The nests, made from chewed wood fibre, are normally located underground or in cavities within soil, walls, ceilings, logs or trees.

Worker wasps leave the nest in search of food, and are attracted to meats, sweet food and drink. Wasps may travel up to 500 metres from their nest to locate food.

How European Wasps breed

Colonies begin in spring with a single fertilised queen, who makes a nest with a single egg in each of a small number of cells. These eggs hatch into grub-like larvae that are tended by the queen for the few weeks it takes them to reach maturity. This first batch of workers takes over nest construction and rearing larvae, and the queen concentrates on egg-laying. The nest continues to be extended throughout summer.

Towards the end of summer, several larger cells are constructed, in which a new generation of queens develop. Males also develop, and mate with the queens outside the nest before they die.

In late autumn the original queen dies, and the new queens disperse to find suitable over-wintering sites before forming a new nest in spring. It is significant that in the warmer climate of Australia, one of the new queens may stay in the nest and begin laying eggs, without the usual winter hibernation period. Over several seasons, this can result in giant nests containing more than 100,000 wasps.

Toxicity level of European Wasps

European Wasps are more aggressive than bees and will attack when their nests are disturbed. Unlike bees, wasps can sting more than once, and do not die after stinging. The sting causes a burning pain and swelling. If stings are multiple, a more severe systemic reaction may occur.

In some individuals, wasp, bee and ant stings can cause an allergic reaction (anaphylaxis), but this is relatively uncommon. Effective treatment is available, which involves known bee/ant/wasp sting allergy sufferers carrying a special kit when outdoors. Immunotherapy or desensitisation is also available, and can reduce the severity of the allergy. Seven deaths over a twenty-year period attributed to wasp stings have been recorded in Australia, mainly amongst known allergy sufferers who were not carrying their preventative medicine with them.

First Aid for European Wasp sting(s)

A cold pack may be used to relieve the pain of the sting. If there is evidence of a more severe reaction or the sting victim is known to be allergic to wasp and bee venom, seek medical attention immediately.

Wasps are attracted to all types of sweet food and meat. A sting to the throat area after accidentally swallowing a wasp is extremely dangerous. That said, care must be taken not to drink directly from open bottles and cans during wasp season.

How to Discourage European Wasps

  • Making sure rubbish bins have tight fitting lids
  • Not leaving fallen fruit or food scraps lying around your yard
  • Covering exposed food, picnics and BBQs
  • Keeping your swimming pool covered when not in use
  • Avoid leaving uneaten pet food and dog bones outside
  • Keeping compost heaps and bins covered at all times
  • Covering bird baths or fish ponds or septic vent pipes with shade cloth or fine mesh
  • Removing ivy from the garden; wasps find it very attractive and frequently nest in strands of ivy
  • Cover all windows with fly screens
  • Keep yards tidy and remove any leaf litter from gardens
  • Do not drink out of cans or bottles - use a straw or glass receptacle
  • Do not leave fallen fruit or food scraps lying around your yard

Destroying European Wasp nests

On your property: Please contact a professional pest controller or head to the Better Health Channel for further information.

On your neighbour's land: Speak to your neighbour yourself, or advise the Council's Environmental Health Department and an officer will visit your neighbour to advise them of the problem.

On the Council's land: If the wast nest is on a nature strip or in a park, call the Council's Customer Service on (03) 5573 0444 to report the nest location.

Contact
Environmental Health Department
Phone (03) 5573 0256
Customer Service
Phone (03) 5573 0444

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