There are many and varied types of wasp but we normally think of the creature with yellow and black stripes when the word ‘wasp’ is used. While the first brood of tiny workers of some of the bumblebees were out and about collecting nectar today the wasps were all queens. They journeyed back and forth to the garden cotoneaster which is so popular at this time of year. Most were the common wasp (Vespula vulgaris) but at least one was a German wasp (Vespula germanica). The differences are subtle and is most clearly defined on the head but the abdomen patterning is also different. However, it’s worth remembering that the black and yellow patterning varies from wasp to wasp so it is not always easy to make the distinction.
Both common and German wasps build paper nests although the colour differs from yellowish-brown of the common wasp to grey for the German wasp. In most cases the nests will be hidden away, frequently underground, but occasionally they use larger cavities and spaces. Both species are predatory, feeding on insects, but both are also partial to sweet liquids and thus can be seen feeding on nectar at times. Their normal feeding habits make them a useful tool in keeping in check certain flies and caterpillars but they still suffer from the prejudice borne out of the fact that the females can sting (males can’t) when threatened.