The common wasp, Vespula vulgaris, is a eusocial vespid found in throughout the Northern Hemisphere and has been introduced to Australia and New Zealand. This species as well as other wasps of the genera Vespula and Dolichovespula are known in the United States as yellowjackets. Their natural habitat is dry grasslands and woodlands, but they easily adapt to urban habitats. As in other vespids species, V. vulgaris queens are the only member of a hive to survive through the winter, and in the spring each begins to build a paper nest in a hidden cavity, often subterranean, such as an animal burrow, tree stump, or crevice in rocks or walls to start a new colony. The queen cares for the first brood of larva, which quickly hatch into workers and take over the task of building and protecting the nest and caring for young. Workers live 2-4 weeks, and are replaced by subsequent generations throughout the summer.
Yellowjacket workers are predators on a wide variety of small insects. For this reason they can be very helpful in removing insect species that are pests of ornamental and crop plants, but they also can significantly affect populations of native insects (this is especially documented in New Zealand, where V. vulgaris is a significant pest species). Yellowjackets are hazards to beehives and cause significant financial loss in apiaries where they destroy the hives. In addition to preying on live insects, yellowjackets (as are most vespid wasps) are notorious scavengers, and will eat dead meat. They masticate all meat/insect prey and bring it back to the nest as food for their developing larvae. Adult workers themselves use honeydew and nectar as food sources. Because they consume large quantities they compete with other pollinators of many types, sometimes seriously disrupting natural ecosystems. Although they have stingers for defense, common wasps kill their prey by biting them rather than stinging. Foraging workers become a common, hazardous pest in mid-summer, as they scavenge around humans, eating sugary drinks and meats at picnics or from garbage cans. Vespula vulgaris can sting multiple times, and are fairly aggressive. Vespula vulgaris can be readily captured and killed in a variety of commercial and home-made traps baited with food or with synthetic chemicals attractive to wasps, to reduce numbers around inhabited areas. Insecticides can also be applied to kill nests.
The common wasp usually forms large colonies below ground, but occasionally nests may be made in wall cavities, hollow trees and attics (1). Queens emerge from hibernation during the spring, and they search for a suitable location in which to start a new colony. She then begins to build the nest with chewed up wood pulp, which dries to make a papery substance. A few eggs are laid, which develop into non-reproductive workers. These workers eventually take over the care of the nest, and the queen's life is then devoted solely to egg laying (4). At the end of autumn a number of eggs develop into new queens and males, which leave the nest and mate. The new queens seek out suitable places in which to hibernate, and the males and the old colony (including the old queen) die (4). The developing larvae are fed on insects which the workers bring back to the nest. Few people are aware of the role the common wasp plays in keeping the populations of many insect pests under control. The adults require high-energy sugary foods such as nectar and fruit; they also feed on a sugary substance exuded by the larvae (4). The main reason that wasps are so feared is their sting, which can be quite painful, and can be used more than once, unlike those of bees. The sting has evolved from a modified ovipositor, a structure used in egg-laying, and so only workers (which are all females) are able to sting (4).
The common wasp is a familiar and much feared social insect (3). They are quite large insects, with an obvious 'waist' between the thorax and abdomen. They have bright yellow and black bands along the body, two pairs of wings and fairly long, robust antennae. The sting is located at the tip of the abdomen (4). The queens (reproductive females) are larger than workers (non-reproductive females) (2).
This species is black with yellow markings. Yellowjacket resemble to Vespula germanica but its face lacks of black spots present in German wasp. The workers sizes oscillate between 12 and 17 mm, queens 15 to 20 mm. Head: malar space less than half as long as penultimate antennal segment; occipital carina incomplete, it reach mandible base; workers with a black mark behind the eyes; wide black stripe between the corona and ocular sinus. Mesosoma: yellow pronotal bands parallel. Metasoma: apex of seventh tergite of male depressed, shaft of aedeagus with a acute tooth of each side to base of terminal spoon (Miller 1961). Xanthic workers rarely with evanescent enclosed yellow spots on tergum 2 (Buck et al. 2008)
The Yellowjacket is a Holarctic species with transcontinental distribution in Neartic region, this species is found in North and Centre America, Europe and Asia (Miller 1961). This species was introduced species to Hawaii, Iceland, New Zealand and Australia (Carpenter & Kojima, Kweskin 2000, Rodriguez-Palafox 1996). Canada: all provinces and territory less Nunavut. United States: Northern and western. Mexico: Ciudad de Mexico, Durango, Michoacan and Oaxaca (Buck et al.1981).