Vespula (Paravespula) vulgaris | Common Wasp



Conservation status

Ireland: unknown.

Europe: unknown.

Global: unknown.   

Native status


Species Biology


Note: Phenotypically very similar to Vespula germanica.

  • 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 black anchor-shaped marking.
  • Ocular sinus yellow with inner margin of the eye concave.
  • Gena (band at the side of the head behind the eye) interrupted by a black mark, yellow on male.
  • Yellow lateral band on the thorax not widened (widening apparent with V. germanica).

Preferred environment

Adult habitat & habits


Can be found in many types of temperate habitats.  Found usually in open habitats including urban areas, which in the Irish context means it is fairly ubiquitous and can be found almost everywhere. 

Nests are mostly subterranean (8-15 cm in depth) (e.g. in rodent burrows or earth cracks). Aerial nests are always in enclosed spaces (e.g. tree hollows, attics, wall voids, dense vegetation). Aerial sites are more frequent in urban areas. 

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. V. vulgaris is known to use rotten 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 early March to the end of October (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). Some colonies may overwinter, dying out in early spring. 

Life stages

Life cycle

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

Overwintering queens emerge from early March with nest foundation by the single queen from mid-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 mid-September i.e. the intermediate phase. The colony terminates usually from the end of October and rarely to early February with the death or inactivity of the queen. 

Nesting biology

Mature nests, on average, consist of about 8250-8700 cells in 6-12 combs. About about 10000 workers, 1000 queens and 1000 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.


World distribution(GBIF)

Found throughout mainland England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland. Also recorded from the Isle of Man, Isles of Scilly, the Channel Islands, Outer Hebrides, Orkneys and Shetland. Elsewhere, it occurs in Europe, North Africa, northern and central Asia from Turkey to Japan and introduced into Iceland, New Zealand and south-eastern Australia.

Irish distribution


Temporal change

Records submitted to Data Centre in 2023

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



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 Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Zoology 11: 417-427.

Bees, Wasps and Ants Recording Society: (