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Common or German wasp

Common or German wasp

Updated 9 October 2018 11:59am

German wasp
Vespula vulgaris, V. germanica
Photo: Landcare Research

Why are wasps a problem?

New Zealand provides a favourable habitat for wasps because of our mild winters, no natural wasp predators and a plentiful food supply. This has led New Zealand to have some of the highest densities of Common and German wasps in the world.

Introduced wasps are causing a number of problems throughout the country. They:

  • Pose a danger to workers in industries, such as viticulture and forestry
  • Reduce honeybees’ productivity by raiding beehives and diminishing their food supply
  • Eat native insects and honey dew, which are important food sources for many native species, including kaka, tui and gecko
  • Have been known to kill chicks in the nest
  • Pose a risk to people who are allergic to the sting.

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?


Vespex is a new protein (meat-based) bait developed in conjunction with the Department of Conservation (DOC). It contains the insecticide fipronil, which is deployed from a bait station. Wasps eating the bait and taking it back to their nests to feed the rest of the colony, wiping out the nest. This is especially useful when you have been unable to identify where wasps are nesting. However, it is only effective at certain times of the year when wasps are eating protein. It tends to work better in environments where food supply for wasps is scarce.

Vespex is targeted at wasps and is not attractive to bees. It is available from Nelson-based company Merchento. All users must pass an online test and become an approved user to ensure they use it according to instructions.

Information on Vespex is on DOC's website

Poisoning wasp nests

Another way to control wasps is to locate the nest and poison it directly. Removing or covering these attractants food such as fruit and meat that attracts wasps will help discourage them 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 few tips:

  • Purchase a powder-based product from your local garden or hardware store to poison the nest directly
  • Poison all entrances to the nest
  • Poison at night to lessen the chance of the wasps attacking
  • Poison during fine weather
  • If the nest is still active following the poison application, repeat the procedure on the next suitable evening
Trapping individual wasps

If you are unable to find the nest, individually trapping wasps could be another solution. Most wasps die off during winter and the queen hibernates until the spring. In October the queen starts a new nest, so early spring is the time to trap queens and avoid the creation of new nests.

How to make your own wasp trap:

  1. Cut the top quarter off a plastic 1.5 litre soft drink bottle
  2. Invert the top and glue it back on so the narrow opening faces down into the bottle
  3. Half fill the trap with a mixture of water, sugar (1 tablespoon per 100ml) and one teaspoon of household detergent, eg, washing up liquid
  4. Wasps will be attracted to the sugar and land on the water’s surface. The detergent breaks the surface tension so the wasps sink and drown.

TapTrap offers some useful information about wasp traps.

NoPests’ Wasp Dome Trap is an effective commercial product.


How can we help you?

Contact our biosecurity officers for advice on how to treat and manage wasps.

If you find a wasp nest on Greater Wellington land, let us know so that the nest so it can be dealt with immediately.

Commercial pest control companies can be contracted to control wasps.

Additional information and tips on managing wasp problems can be found at: