Taxonomy

Vespula (Paravespula) germanica | German Wasp

Distribution

Status

Conservation status

Ireland: unknown.

Europe: unknown.

Global: unknown.   

Native status

Native.

Species Biology

Identification

Note: Phenotypically very similar to Vespula vulgaris

  • Yellow and black.
  • Eyes almost touch the mandibles i.e. the oculo-malar space is short (the distance between mandible and lower margin of eye shorter than the width of the antennal scape (the basal segment of the antennae)). 
  • Clypeus (front of the head between the eyes) is yellow with a downward directed stripe and black spots or just black spots (1-3 blacks spots).
  • Ocular sinus yellow (more so than V. vulgaris) with inner margin of the eye convex towards the antennae. 
  • Gena (band at the side of the head behind the eye) and temples completely yellow. 
  • Yellow lateral band on the thorax widened. 

Habitat

Generally found in many, usually open, habitats, which in Ireland are rather widespread. They also happen to be most common species of wasp associated with urban habitats. Very rarely found in forested areas and above 800 m a.s.l.

Nest sites are mostly subterranean with entrance tunnels some 3-20cm in length. Open sites are preferred, often in heathland or grassland. Aerial sites are used less commonly than V. vulgaris. In the soil, nests may reach 25cm in diameter. Nest paper is grey, due to workers collecting well-weathered wood fibres.

Adult wasps leaving and entering a colony often carry materials which have a nutritional or nest-building function, and sometimes a sanitation or nest-cooling function. The main materials brought into a colony are fluids, including water in the crop, and pulp and flesh carried in the mandibles.

The pulp is used as a building material for the envelopes and combs of the nest. Unlike V. vulgaris,  which uses rotten wood, V. germanica will use dead sound wood. 

The fluids, with their dissolved carbohydrates, and the flesh are used to maintain the metabolic activities of the larvae and adults, for the growth and development of the larvae, for egg maturation in the queen and to build up reserves in the newly reared sexuals. Water is used in the nest building process and as an aid to reducing colony temperature when it becomes too hot. In general, water is obtained from open sources such as ponds and streams, fluids from the nectaries of flowers, extra-floral nectaries (e.g. laurel), honeydew, ripe fruit, sap flows and mad-made sweet substances.

Prey and flesh food are usually derived from live insects and other arthropods, particularly spiders, but are also scavenged from dead arthropods and vertebrates including man-derived sources. For example prey items usually consist of flies, lepidopteran larvae, spiders etc. 


 

Flight period

Generally from mid-March to early November (essentially once the warmth of Spring arrives until the colony terminates due to the cold weather that winter brings at the end of the year). 

Life cycle

The life cycle of social wasps including that of V. germanica can be divided into four phases, namely the foundation, worker, reproductive, and intermediate phases. 

Overwintering queens emerge from mid-March with nest foundation by the single queen from early May. The first workers emerge from early June which signals the start of the worker phase. Further workers are then produced in time before the reproductives (new queens called gynes and males called drones) leave for their mating flights from early September i.e. the intermediate phase. The colony terminates usually in early November and rarely mid-December with the death or inactivity of the queen. 

Nesting biology

Mature nests, on average, consist of about 8250-8700 cells in 6-12 combs from which about 8000 workers, 1300 queens and 3200 males are reared. 

Flowers visited

In spring, queens visit cotoneaster and other early flowering shrubs for nectar. Males and the last workers are often found taking nectar from ivy flowers and the last remaining umbellifer flowers in October and November.

Distribution

World distribution(GBIF)

Found throughout Ireland, England, Wales and Scotland. Also recorded from the Isles of Scilly, the Channel Islands and Shetland. Elsewhere it occurs in Europe, North Africa, and northern and central Asia from Turkey to China. Introduced to New Zealand, Tasmania, southern Australia, Ascension Islands, South Africa, Chile, Argentina, northern U.S.A., south to California, and Canada. 

Irish distribution

Specifics are unknown. 

Temporal change

Records submitted to Data Centre in 2020

The following map is interactive. If you would prefer to view it full screen then click here.

References

Publications

Archer, Michael E. (2012) Vespinae Wasps of the World: Behaviour, Ecology & Taxonomy of the Vespinae. Manchester: SIRI Scientific Press.

Archer, Michael E. (2014) The Vespid Wasps: (Tipiidae, Mutillidae, Sapygidae, Scoliidae and Vespidae) of the British Isles. York: Royal Entomological Society. 

Dvorák, L. & Roberts, S.P.M. (2006) Key to the paper and social wasps of Central Europe (Hymenoptera: Vespidae)Acta Entomologica Musei Nationalis Pragae 46: 221-244.

Donovan, B.J. (1984) Ocurrence of the common wasp, Vespula vulgaris (L.) (Hymenoptera: Vespidae) in New ZealandNew Zealand Journal of Zoology 11: 417-427.

Bees, Wasps and Ants Recording Society: www.bwars.com (http://www.bwars.com/index.php?q=wasp/vespidae/vespinae/vespula-germanica)