Landcare Research - Manaaki Whenua

Landcare-Research -Manaaki Whenua

Wasp Web: Information on Vespula Wasps in New Zealand

Image - R Toft

German and common wasps are a pest of urban, rural, and natural ecosystems. They can spoil peoples’ enjoyment of the outdoors, as well posing a health risk; affect the profitability and safety of industries such as beekeeping, horticulture, forestry and tourism. They also upset the ecological balance in native ecosystems. New Zealand has the highest densities of these wasps in the world. In beech forest with honeydew, the biomass of social wasps (about 1100 g/ha/yr) is greater than that of all the native birds.

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Our Aims

  • Provide up-to-date and authoritative information on Vespula wasps in New Zealand;
  • Enhance communication between regional and national biosecurity authorities, scientists, and the public.

10 Facts about Wasps

  1. The German wasp (Vespula germanica) was first found near Hamilton in 1945; the common wasp (Vespula vulgaris) has been in New Zealand since 1978
  2. The beech forests at the top of the South Island have the highest densities of wasps in the world; but wasps also occur in many other habitats across New Zealand
  3. On average, there are 12 nests per hectare in beech forests, that’s about 10, 000 wasps per hectare!
  4. The highest number of nests recorded was 50 - 60 nests per hectare, the equivalent of 25 - 30 nests on a football field
  5. The largest nest ever found was four metres high and contained about four million cells
  6. There is a greater biomass of wasps (3.8kg/ha) in beech forest than all the native birds plus stoats and rodents put together
  7. The public voted wasps as “most disliked wildlife” (along with rats), because they spoil enjoyment of outdoor recreational activities
  8. Wasps destroy or seriously damage 8-9% of honeybee hives in New Zealand each year
  9. Wasps affect native foodwebs, and negatively affect the behaviour of native birds
  10. The predation rate of wasps on some native invertebrates is so high that the probability of their populations surviving through the wasp season is virtually nil


Funding for this project was provided by MBIE Envirolink grant #MLDC95 and through Landcare Research Core funding of the Managing Invasive Weeds, Pests and Diseases Portfolio