Wasp of the Day: The Red Wasp

The Red Wasp (Vespula rufa – aka the Northern Red-Banded Yellowjacket) is easy to recognise when viewed close up, as it is one of only two species in the UK with red markings on its abdomen.  (The other will be ‘Wasp of the Day’ another day…)

The nest of the Red Wasp is small, with a diameter of up to 20cm, and which only holds between 100 and 300 workers at any one time.  Throughout the season A colony generally rears about 450 workers, 180 males and 200 queens!  They can get away with these smaller numbers because in order to rear each queen, Red wasps require only 1 worker, unlike the common wasp which needs at least 10!

Its partial to open habitats such as meadows and moorlands, and is not really an urban wasp, so if you see this smart-looking lady, you have had a special treat! Keep an eye out for them on figwort, wild parsnip, black currant, gorse and cotoneaster.  And this is the season for them, as the next generation of queens and the males appear by the end of August for mating season. By late September the males and workers will all be dead, and the new queens hibernating!

Not only are their nests smaller and their numbers few, the Red Wasp is non-aggressive and reluctant to sting, even in defense of its nest.  (This is quite amazing as it is a very put-upon wasp, with several species of parasitic flies attacking its larvae.  The red waps is also the main host species of a different creature altogether – the Cuckoo Wasp, whom you will meet tomorrow!)

6 Replies to “Wasp of the Day: The Red Wasp”

  1. The insect shown sitting on a board with her back to us is actually a queen of Dolichovespula norwegica, and NOT Vespula rufa.

      1. You’re most welcome, Morgan! I’ve been staring at vespine wasps for over 40 years, so I sometimes literally identify them in my dreams!

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