Common Wasp – Vespula vulgaris
Description: About 2 cm long, they have bright yellow and black bands along the body, with an obvious ‘waist’ between the thorax and abdomen. They also have two pairs of wings and fairly long, robust antennae. The sting is located at the tip of the abdomen. The queens (reproductive females) are larger than workers (non-reproductive females). The common wasp can be distinguished from other similar social wasps by the anchor-shaped mark on its face.
Habitat: This species is found in a wide range of habitats and is common in gardens, woodlands and meadows as well as around habitation.
When to see it: April to late October.
Life History: The common wasp usually forms large colonies below ground, but occasionally nests may be made in wall cavities, hollow trees and attics. Queens emerge from hibernation during the spring, and they search for a suitable location in which to start a new colony. She then begins to build the nest with chewed up wood pulp, which dries to make a papery substance. A few eggs are laid, which develop into non-reproductive workers. These workers eventually take over the care of the nest, and the queen’s life is then devoted solely to egg laying. At the end of autumn a number of eggs develop into new queens and males, which leave the nest and mate. The new queens seek out suitable places in which to hibernate, and the males and the old colony (including the old queen) die.
Potter wasps (or mason wasps) are the common name for a group of caterpillar-hunting wasps known for the pot-shaped mud nests built by some species. Potter wasps are a cosmopolitan wasp group presently treated as a subfamily of Vespidae, but sometimes recognized in the past as a separate family, Eumenidae.
Wall Mason Wasp – Ancistrocerus parietum
Description: Females vary from 10 to 13mm in length, males are slightly smaller and reach a bodily length of 8 to 11mm.The basic colour is black, with yellow bands, and they have a very narrow waist. Ancistrocerus parietum, A. gazella and A. quadratus are all very similar and hard to separate without detailed examination.
Habitat: Usually seen visiting nesting holes, sometimes there a numerous holes in a suitable bank or wall.
When to see it: May to September peaking around July.
Life History: Nests in any suitable cavity, from small holes in old walls, to holes in tree trunks or soil banks. The prey of this genus is lepidopterous caterpillars.
UK Status: Fairly common and found in England, Wales, south Scotland and Ireland.