The rise of the wasps

For around a month the Large Yellow Underwing has been the commonest species in my moth trap – their numbers are now diminishing and the commonest species now is the Common Wasp (Vespula vulgaris).

Common wasps seem to be everywhere at the moment

common-wasp-2And by the morning they all seem to have been attracted by the light and are in my moth trap.

The ‘anchor’ mark on the face of this wasp is one of the key identification features of Vespula vulgaris

Asian hornet – don’t panic

My friend and colleague Matthew Oates recently circulated the following note about Asian Hornets – I thought I would reproduce it in full here.

Asian Hornet
By Danel Solabarrieta  via Wikimedia Commons

“There was a piece on the One Show last Friday about the Asian Hornet Vespa velutina, a small hornet which is likely to colonise the UK in the near future (via accidental importation, rather than as a migrant).  The piece suggests that Asian Hornet will be a major threat to bee keeping, as the workers take bees in flight – but note that hornets of all species habitually take bees (and wasps, hoverflies, butterflies etc)…

Here’s the link

Asian Hornet poses no threat to humans – unless you disturb a nest, which are usually in trees but can be in sheds, garages etc.  Hornets are not attracted to jam, cream, scones, cake etc., NT tea gardens, or people.  They don’t like wasps, which are probably the honey bee’s number one enemy – and may do more good than harm to honeybees as a result.

Experts within BWARS (the Bees, Wasps & Ants Recording Scheme) feel strongly that the Asian Hornet is unlikely to pose a major threat to honey bees here, or to any other element of our wildlife.  Neonicotinoids pose a far greater threat to bees and other pollinating insects.

Nonetheless, when Asian Hornet arrives there will be an almighty panic, as Defra – primed by bee keepers and pest control companies – will spring into action.  Certainly, knocking out colonies at an early stage may delay the insect’s establishment here for a while.  Eventually, we will learn to live with the Asian Hornet.

BWARS have had to deal with over 400 misidentifications of Asian Hornets!

Here’s the page on the BWARS website

My message is: Be aware (no pun intended) but don’t panic!”

Matthew Oates
Wildlife Specialist
The National Trust

Wasp issues

This has been a good or a bad year for wasps depending on how you quantify it! Many catering outlets around the Region have been plagued by wasps and some have got quite desperate. At Home Farm Cafe at Parke they have got on top of the problem by using wasp traps and the ‘waspinator’. I like the idea of the waspinator as it is non lethal – the idea is that it looks like a wasps nest and therefore deters visiting wasps from the vicinity.

I could tell the difference but then again I’m not a wasp

The Home Farm Cafe explanation – in all honestly it all seems to be working – there are far fewer wasps around now than 2 weeks ago

Greedy wasps meet their fate

Wasps are so intent on eating jam that they don’t take their personal safety into account. Yesterday they were feeding on a couple of little pots of jam before the rain came …… the pots then filled up with water and dozens of them drowned whilst still eating the jam. They should be nominated for the Darwin Awards! As a result I managed to collect a few dead specimens to get some better pictures of the German Wasp which I photographed a few days ago and also found some individuals of the Common Wasp (Vespula vulgaris).

Common wasp1This is the face of a common wasp worker – the black face mark is shaped like an anchor

Common wasp2This is the body pattern – note four yellow spots on the thorax (chest) and the large downward facing triangle on the abdomen along with 3 pairs of black spots – a common species.

German wasp3Here is the German Wasp – three black dots – one larger – two small

German wasp2This also is a German Wasp – they can be quite variable – black line and two black dots

German wasp1The body of the German wasp – 4 yellow marks on the thorax (two are a bit hidden in this picture), a narrower downward facing triangle and the black dots.

I will see if I can find a red wasp and a Saxon wasp as the year unfolds for comparison (and a full set) – I think it is going to be a ‘good’ wasp year……

The German wasp

Continuing on this week’s theme – here is the German Wasp Vespula germanica. Everybody knows wasps like a cream tea!

German wasp 1German wasp inspecting the jam – note 4 spots on the thorax (the chest) and 8 spots down the abdomen (back).

German wasp 2

This is a very poor photo of the face of a German wasp – note the middle of the picture – a dark elongated blob at 45 degrees with two tiny small dots underneath – the distinguishing features of the face of the German wasp worker.

Vespula germanica

Oddly according to the National Biodiversity Network map the German Wasp isn’t very common at all in Devon.

Next task is to get some much better pictures

Another wasp – the tree wasp

We were interviewing at Finch Foundry yesterday for contractors to prepare our Conservation Management Plan for the property – I will write about this later and explain what it is all about! Before the ‘interviewees’ arrived I managed to take a few photographs of a wasp munching away on a hogweed flower.

Tree wasp 1
This is the Tree Wasp Dolichovespula sylvestris. Compare this to the Median Wasp in yesterday’s blog – see here

The patterns on the abdomen are different, there are only two yellow spots on the thorax and there are no areas of red anywhere. Also note how hairy the thorax (the bit with the two yellow spots) is.

Tree wasp 2

Here is the face of the Tree Wasp – there is no red ‘dagger’ on the yellow patch between the eyes. Some tree wasps do have a small back spot but this one doesn’t. You can also again see how hairy it is – lots of those hairs have got hogweed pollen on them.

You may have thought that a wasp was just a wasp! There are in fact many different species of social wasps in the UK – I will try and photograph some more of them in the coming days to show you the differences. In the meantime you might like to look at this excellent blog article about the different types of wasp in Nottinghamshire – see here – thank you Google and thank you Trevor and Dilys Pendleton

A median wasp at Killerton

Last week at Killerton I came across a Median Wasp Dolichovespula media. This species first arrived in Britain in the early 1980s from continental Europe and caused rather a stir. It is a species which can nest close to buildings and close to the ground – as a result people can get stung! The media got very excited about the Median Wasp calling it a new killer species …. 35 years later all is fortunately well.

Median wasp 2
The median wasp is larger than an ‘ordinary’ wasp but much smaller than a hornet. It quite often has rufous tinges along with the yellow markings. They are identified by the four marks on the thorax – in this specimen two are red and two are yellow

Median wasp 1

From the front the median wasp has a dagger mark above the jaws- red in this case. For some reason unknown to me this individual was scratching away at this mountain bike tyre. Not sure if it was feeding on the rubber or something on the tyre.

It is now well established in the UK and is fairly common – it is not aggressive unless you annoy it!