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European Wasps in Australia

adult worker european wasps
Photo & © Otto Rogge

The European wasp Vespula germanica is native to Europe, North Africa and temperate Asia. Our Australian records show that the European wasp first reached Tasmania in 1959, where it soon became well established. However, it was not until 1977 that the European wasp was first recorded on the mainland in Melbourne.

About a year before the European wasp reached Tasmania, the English wasp Vespula vulgaris was recorded in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne. It is a close relative of the European wasp and has very similar colour markings. The English wasp has not enjoyed the same success as the European wasp and has only spread to the eastern parts of Melbourne and Gippsland. For all practical purposes (venom potential, nesting position, biology etc) the European and English wasps may be considered as the same. In the remainder of this site, we only refer to the European wasp, however, many of the comments are equally applicable to the English wasp.

Research has shown that the spread of the European wasp has been greatly aided through hitching rides on human transportation. So the European wasp probably arrived in style by boat or plane!

At present, the European wasp distribution appears to be restricted to the cool and wet climates of coastal southern Australia. It occurs throughout most of Victoria and Tasmania. In country New South Wales, nests have been located at Coonabarabran while several several nests have been recorded in south-east Queensland. In South Australia, the European wasp is well established throughout the hills surrounding Adelaide and Adelaide itself. And in Western Australia, it has been recorded from Perth and Albany.

Unfortunately, the European wasp is here to stay in Australia and eradication of this pest is no longer an option. Despite early reports labelling it as a 'Killer Wasp', no human deaths have been recorded in Australia. However, we must learn to live with this nuisance or pest and take precautions when eating and playing outside.

Note: All photographs Museum Victoria unless otherwise acknowledged

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