We have a wasp nest above our window, the inhabitants looking much like a common wasp, maybe slightly larger, but with the colouring of a honey bee; brown, almost black, with fine yellow bands, in fact almost like a wasp "in reverse".
Is this a common colour variation, or do we have something unusual?
As sarah says these are likely to be the Median Wasp, Dolichovespula media, as are sarah's. In my experience the dark form prevails and they also typically nest in open situations, bushes and shrubs, and interestingly have a reputation for being aggressive. So I am interested to hear the sting described as mild. I feel that the aggressive reputation is born from the fact that they nest in shrubs and hence when disturbed through hedge trimming or pruning the immediate area is quickly full of agitated wasps.
They have colonised most of the UK in just about 30 years and are a common urban species.
Interestingly, when we tried to look up wasps on the internet, the first sites suggested by Google (apart from Rugby) were for pest control, which seems a bit of a shame. Last year someone on our allotment field insisted on a wasp nest being destroyed. My Dad always told me they ate green fly and other vegetable nibblers. And the nests are only annual, aren't they?
'My' wasps did buzz about a bit--I thought they made a more agitated buzz when they were cross. Is that true or did it just sound crosser because there were more of them? I used scissors to pick the currants after a while because picking them shook the bush more but really I think letting me pick the currants at all is cannot be described as aggressive. Do wasps have a warning buzz or was that just my imagination? The nest isn't very big yet (about 10/15 cm across, though it contained an impressive number of wasps when I shook it too much). Will the nest get bigger over the season? Abandoned nests we've found in the attic have been much bigger--I'm concerned the anti-wasp league will spot them.