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Common or German wasp

Common or German wasp

Updated 16 March 2016 11:03am

German wasp
Photo: Landcare Research

Why are wasps a problem?

The New Zealand environment provides a favourable habitat for wasps because of mild winters, a lack of natural wasp predators and plentiful food supply. Consequently, New Zealand has some of the highest densities of common and German wasps in the world. Wasps are a serious threat in homes, schools and recreational areas such as parks, forests or beaches. Wasps pose a real risk to people who are allergic to the sting. Those working in industries such as viticulture, agriculture and forestry are particularly at risk. Wasps reduce honey bees’ productivity by raiding beehives and reducing the food supply, and they predate on native insects and honey dew, which are important food sources for many native species.

Description and background

Both common and German wasps live in large colonies, about the size of a soccer ball. The nest can become larger if the colony survives the winter. Common and German wasps have distinctive yellow and black striped bodies. The common wasp nest is yellowish to reddish brown, while the German wasp nest is grey. Both species can use their sting repeatedly.

Common wasps were first noted in the 1920s, but did not become well established in the Wellington region until 1978. German wasps have been present in New Zealand since the 1940s. Australian and Asian paper wasps are also present in the region.

What can I do?

The most effective way to control wasps is to locate the nest and poison it directly. Food such as fruit and meat will attract wasps, and removing or covering these attractants will help discourage wasps from outdoor areas.

By sitting and watching the flight line of foraging wasps it is usually possible to locate the entrance to their nest, this is easiest done in the late afternoon or evening. A number of powder based products can be used to poison the nest directly; these can be purchased from garden and hardware stores. Once the nest is located, all the entrances should be poisoned. When the nest becomes active the next day, the wasps will carry the powder insecticide inside the nest on their legs and bodies. It is recommended to poison at night to lessen the chance of the wasps attacking. Fine weather is preferable, as any rain will discourage the wasps from foraging the next day and possibly effect the toxin. If the nest is still active following the poison application, repeat the procedure on the next suitable evening.

Commercial pest control companies can be contracted to control wasps.

Additional information on wasp control products can be found at:

Key Industries


Greater Wellington wasps brochure

Wasp Web: information on Vespula Wasps in New Zealand