New Zealand has some of the highest densities of social wasps in the world. Wasps are a very common pest in the Greater Wellington Region, nests start appearing from Spring, but are small and the wasps are less aggressive and so they are often overlooked.
As the seasons progress the nests become larger with more individuals, so you are more inclined to notice the nests after the Christmas period.
Once the Summer is in full swing, so are wasps, with nests getting quite large and having many wasps in and around them. By now the wasps are becoming more defensive of their territory and are quite aggressive towards intruders.
In late Summer the nests produce new Queens for the following season. These queens mate, then overwinter in a warm dry area, then start a new colony the following spring.
The main pest wasp species in the lower North Island are the Common Wasp (vespula vulgaris) the European or German Wasp (vespula germanica), and the Asian Paper Wasp (Polistes chinensis).
The Common and German Wasp look and behave similarly. Generally German wasps are smaller, but both species form large, intricate paper nests, made from chewed wood pulp and saliva.
These nests are a complex series of combs, arranged in layers. Size will vary from a soccer ball size to 2m accross in extreme cases.
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Nests can be constructed in almost any area, underground nests are common, hanging under floors and in roof cavities are other favorite points, but any dry , protected area could house a colony.
It is inpossible to predict where wasps will set up camp and so proofing a dwelling is impractical.
Asian Paper Wasps are a smaller very ‘waspish’ wasp, with a long slim abdomen and very pronounced waist. They form nests on any protected stucture, often in hedges, under the eaves of buildings, on fencelines etc, but can nest almost any dry, raised point.
There nest is a loose paper structure that appears very fragile, and can reach 200-250mm accross, but is usually 100-150mm around Wellington.
They are not as common as the other two species yet, but Hawke Bay, Kapiti and the Wairarapa often see these wasps, and they are not rare in the Hutt valley and Wellington.
DO NOT belive the rumours that they dont sting, Asian Paper Wasps can and will sting repeatedly and are very painful.
Asian Paper Wasp
Take extreme caution when dealing with ANY wasp nest or Bee nest as they will defend there nests aggressively and will inflict a painful sting repeatedly, as well as this, they produce a rapid wing beat that alerts other wasps and will make them all attack on mass. Wasp stings can cause allergic reactions in many people, often severe.
Landcare Research has reported that in Beech Forests with high honeydew production, that the total mass of wasps is higher than that of all the native birds in the area.
Giant Ichnumoid Wasp (harmless to humans)