Large, conspicuous buzzing insects with yellow and black striped, wasp-waisted bodies, 10-15mm long. They have a sweet tooth at one end and a painful sting at the other.
The queen wasp is larger (20mm) and she hibernates over winter, making a nest in the spring in which to lay her eggs. She feeds the grubs on insects until they develop into worker wasps, three to four weeks later. Workers, all sterile females, forage for over a mile in search of food. One nest may produce 30,000 wasps in a year.
At their peak in August and September with the youngsters reared, the workers turn to the sweet food they prefer and become a nuisance wherever this is available. If annoyed or threatened, wasps will sting and the best remedy – after removing the sting with a clean fingernail – is to apply an anti-histamine. Some people react violently to being stung with several deaths each year.