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1024 Views 3 Replies Last post: Jun 13, 2011 3:40 PM by Sarah RSS
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Jun 11, 2011 9:53 AM

colour variation in wasps

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?

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    Jun 13, 2011 3:21 PM (in response to stevieB)
    Re: colour variation in wasps
    We have a wasp nest in our red currant bush and the wasps look like 'reverse wasps'.  They also have a very mild sting (I couldn't not pick the red currants) I'm sure I've had much worse wasp stings, so I wondered if they were a different species to the ordinary more yellow wasps. I think they are Median Wasps Dolichovespula media (I found an information sheet from the Bee Wasp and Ant Recording Society--I'm not an expert). And a dark form in workers are common in this species, it say.  As I said our nest is (rather inconveniently) in our red currant bush and D. media nest in shrubs and hegderows, so that sounds right.  They are not long established in the UK, arrived in Surrey 1980 (again according to the BWARS) and are spreading north and don't seem to be upsetting the longer established native wasps. I think the common wasp tends to live in burrows (or lofts). I wasn't sure if your nest was inside or outside. Fortunately our wasps are fairly placid and I only got stung twice while picking fruit from very close to their nest. Every now and then they would buzz very crossing but if I kept still (and I'm afraid spoke calmly to them--which my fellow allotment plotter said was almost as mad as talking to my beans--but I'm not sure. By the time I'd picked the currants I think we'd developed a mutually respectful relationship). Wasps are good for the garden so I didn't want to do anything bad to them and they are rather beautiful.  I think our 'reverse wasps' are very stylish. The stings are only as bad as a nettle rash.  My daughter (11), who is sometimes very brave but not normally known for missing an opportunity to make a bit of a fuss, was also stung and by the time we got home from the plot, forgot to tell anyone she'd been stung.
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    Jun 13, 2011 1:28 PM (in response to stevieB)
    Re: colour variation in wasps

    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.

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      Re: colour variation in wasps

      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.

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