The German wasp, (Vespula germanica), is a wasp found in much of the Northern Hemisphere, native to Europe, northern Africa, and temperate Asia.
The German wasp is about 13mm (0.5 inch) long, and has typical wasp colours of black and yellow. It is very similar to the common wasp (Vespula vulgaris), but seen head on, its face has three tiny black dots. German wasps also have black dots on their abdomen, while the common wasp's analogous markings are fused with the black rings above them, forming a different pattern.
The nest is made from chewed plant fibres, mixed with saliva. They are generally found close to or in the ground, rather than higher up on bushes and trees like hornets. It has open cells and a petiole attaching the nest to the substrate. The wasps produce a chemical which repels ants, and secrete it around the base of this petiole in order to avoid ant predation.
A solitary female queen starts the nest, building 20–30 cells before initial egg-laying. This phase begins in spring, depending on climatic conditions. She fashions a petiole and produces a single cell at the end of it. Six further cells are then added around this to produce the characteristic hexagonal shape of the nest cells.
Once the larvae have hatched as workers, they take up most of the colony’s foraging, brood care and nest maintenance. A finished nest may be 20–30 cm across and contain 3,000 individuals.
Each wasp colony includes one queen and a number of sterile workers. Colonies usually last only one year, all but the queen dying at the onset of winter. New queens and males (drones) are produced towards the end of the summer, and after mating, the queen overwinters in a crack or other sheltered location.
This common and widespread wasp collects insects including caterpillars to feed to its larvae, and is therefore generally beneficial. The adults feed on nectar and sweet fruit, and are also attracted to human food and food waste, particularly sodas and meats.The nests are subject to predation by the Honey Buzzard, which excavates them to obtain the larva. The hoverfly Volucella pellucens and some of its relatives lay their eggs in the wasp's nest, and the larva feeds on the wasp's young.