European wasps have black and yellow stripes, with black spots down their abdomen and yellow legs. They are about 20mm long and slightly larger than a bee. Wasps are usually thinner than bees and have longer wings and long black antennae.
For pictures showing the difference between bees and wasps, please see the Agriculture Victoria website.
European wasps like sweet foods and meat - this is why they appear at barbeques. Unlike bees, they do not collect pollen from trees and flowers. European wasp nests have thousands of wasps. They can each sting many times.
If you can see lots of wasps flying around your property, there is probably a nest somewhere. They usually fly within 50m to 200m from their nest and are more common in summer.
You can find nests in the ground, in rubbish heaps or at the bottom of trees and shrubs. You can also find them in roofs, walls and under the eaves of houses. Nests are usually light grey and look like cardboard. They are usually football-sized or larger and you can see a 2cm to 5cm-wide entrance.
The wasp does not have natural predators in Australia to control them, and the warmer climate means wasps survive longer.
What if I find a wasp nest on Council property?
If you find a wasp nest on Council property, for example in public parks or reserves, or on nature strips, please phone Council on 9518 3555.
What if I find a wasp nest on private property?
If you find a wasp nest on private property and do not want to remove it yourself, Council recommends you contact a licensed pest controller. Council does not remove wasp nests on private property.
Tips for removing a nest:
- If you think you are allergic to bees or wasps, do not destroy the wasp nest yourself.
- Use insecticide dust. You can buy it from hardware shops. Ask staff at the shop for the best one.
- Always destroy the nest at night when the wasps are sleepy.
- Use a torch covered with red cellophane, as wasps cannot see the red colour.
- Cover all your skin.
- Approach the nest quietly and put the insecticide dust down the entrance.
- After a day or two, the wasps should be dead. If you still see wasps after four to five days, use the dust again.
- The hole can be filled in after a few days. You do not need to remove it.
The sting from a European wasp is more painful than a sting from a bee, and causes a red swelling. If you are stung, move away from the area as soon as possible to avoid further attacks, and apply an ice pack to the sting. Stings to the face and neck or many stings may lead to severe swelling and or an allergic reaction.
If you have difficulty breathing, call an ambulance, hospital or doctor immediately. Check if the reaction to the sting is not worse than normal. A normal sting site is swollen for a few hours, then itchy. Antihistamine cream may help the pain, itching and swelling.
Preventing wasps and stings
- Drink from a glass when outdoors. If you must drink from a can, use a straw. If a person is stung in the throat it will cause swelling and possible choking.
- When eating food outdoors, you should check each mouthful of food before eating it.
- Wear shoes when walking on grass.
- Don't swat or annoy wasps, as moving objects attract them.
- Cover compost heaps, rubbish bins, birdbaths and fish ponds.
- Remove old or damaged fruit from fruit trees in your garden.
If you need any more information on wasps, please see the Agriculture Victoria website.