How many species of wasps are there

There are several hundred species of wasps in Germany, most of which live in single insectoid households with a few offspring in summer. It is primarily state-building species that spoil a picnic in the forest or the coffee table on the balcony. Here we present 15 native wasp species in more detail with information on distinctive features. You can find out which 8 of them do not sting here.

4 dominant genera with 15 species

A confrontation with solitary wasp species is rare. Females in this category live withdrawn in order to devote themselves solely to the rearing of their offspring. It is the people-building species with hosts of industrious workers who swarm daily in search of food and can harass people in the process. In Germany there are 3 genera with 10 species in the family of the real wasps (Vespinae). In addition, there is the genus of the field wasps (Polistinae) with a total of 5 species that are native to us. The following overview summarizes the outstanding attributes of these main, resident wasp species:

Long-headed wasps (Dolichovespula)

Medium wasp(Dolichovespula media)

The wasp species can be found all over Germany. Due to its appearance, the species is also known as the small hornet. Workers and males (drones) are predominantly black with narrow, yellow markings. The eyelid in particular is colored yellow. The queen stands out with her thorax drawn in red, so that at first glance she looks like a hornet.
  • Body length queen: 18-22 mm
  • Body length worker and drone: 15-19 mm
  • Distinguishing feature: front shield with line
Saxon wasp, attic wasp(Dolichovespula saxonica)
The Saxon wasp is characterized by an extensive, black head shield. Yellow markings can be seen under the eye bays and on the temples. The widespread wasp species likes to build hanging nests in attics. Not knowing about their peaceful nature, fearful people often destroy their nesting sites.
  • Body length queen: 15-18 mm
  • Body length worker and drone: 11-14 mm
  • Distinguishing feature: forehead shield in the form of a crown
Wood wasp(Dolichovespula sylvestris)
Like all long-headed wasps, a wood wasp is not in the mood for sweet food and drinks or hearty grilled meat. In addition to the typical black and yellow coloration, this native wasp species has strong hair on the head and chest. Contrary to its name, the peace-loving wood wasp likes to colonize protected locations in houses and barns.
  • Body length queen: 15-19 mm
  • Body length of worker and drone: 13-15 mm
  • Distinguishing feature: face shield with a single point or without a drawing
Norwegian wasp(Dolichovespula norwegica)
The native wasp species avoids being close to humans. Their preferred places to stay are mountain and mountain forests. The red-brown markings on the sides of the first two rings on the abdomen are striking. The drawing on the head shield is also reddish-brown, but can vary greatly.
  • Body length queen: 15-18 mm
  • Body length worker and drone: 11-15 mm
  • Distinguishing feature: forehead shield in the form of a spearhead
Fake cuckoo wasp(Dolichovespula adulterina)
Wasp queens who target a people of the Saxon wasp are called false cuckoo wasps. The queen boldly penetrates a completed nest, endures the attacks of the workers and in the end kills the reigning queen. Larvae and eggs are removed so that the workers can raise their own brood in the combs. Visually, the social parasite can hardly be distinguished from the original.
  • Body length queen: 14-17 mm
  • Body length of worker and drone: 12-15 mm
  • Distinguishing feature: front shield with black anchor
Tip: Never hit a wasp with your hand. The insect immediately switches to defense mode and uses its stinger. The wasp emits an alarm pheromone, which summons its conspecifics and makes them aggressive.

Short head wasps (Vespula)


German wasp(Vespula germanica)
As a dark cave breeder, the widespread German wasp is very inventive in building its nests. Their locations range from roller shutter boxes to moleholes. The native species of wasp owes its bad reputation to its preference for sweets, which can lead to painful confrontations with humans, primarily in late summer.
  • Body length queen: 17-20 mm
  • Body length worker and drone: 11-16 mm
  • Distinguishing features: forehead shield with 1 to 3 points, yellow abdomen with black diamond-shaped markings
Common wasp(Vespula vulgaris)
If you come across a wasp, it is mostly a common wasp because it is the most common in Germany. A black vertical stripe that spreads downwards dominates the head shield drawing. The drawing of the abdomen, on the other hand, is variable and does not provide a sound reference point as a distinguishing feature.
  • Body length queen: 16-19 mm
  • Body length worker and drone: 11-16 mm
  • Distinguishing feature: forehead shield as a broad, black line, thickened at the bottom
Red wasp(Vespula rufa)
The red wasp occupies a special position among the short-headed wasps. In contrast to the German and Common Wasps, human foods are not on their menu. Since the native wasp species is naturally good-natured, painful attacks are the absolute exception.
  • Body length queen: 16-20 mm
  • Body length worker and drone: 11-15 mm
  • Distinguishing feature: first two abdominal rings colored reddish
Austrian wasp(Vespula austriaca)
The way of life of the Austrian wasp is still a headache for scientists. The fact is that the native wasp species is targeting the red wasp as a social parasite. In contrast to the authentic wasp species, the winged invader does not have the red-brown markings on the abdomen.
  • Body length queen: 15-19 mm
  • Body length worker and drone: 13-16 mm
  • Distinguishing feature: yellow-black markings without reddish segments
Tip: It is a common misconception that you should just blow away a wasp. In fact, it is precisely this behavior that leads to painful stab wounds. The carbon monoxide in the air you breathe makes peaceful wasps so aggressive that they will attack.

Other species of wasps

hornet(Vespa crabro)
The only native species of the genus is also the largest German wasp species. It is not just its imposing size that makes the hornet unique. Furthermore, a red-brown head reveals who is approaching. The workers' menu includes tree and plant juices, flower nectar and all kinds of insects. The majestic wasps are actually in a pacifist mood. If hornets feel themselves or their nest threatened, the attackers feel the sharp sting.
  • Body length queen: 23-35 mm
  • Body length worker and drone: 18-28 mm
  • Distinguishing features: red-brown head, brown chest piece, V-shaped back markings
Field wasps(Polistinae)
Field wasps hardly differ from real wasps in terms of appearance and behavior. Of the 630 species worldwide, 5 species are resident in our regions. Although these species differ from one another in some respects, they can be clearly identified by their drooping legs during flight.

House Field Wasp, Gallic Field Wasp(Polistes dominula)
Apart from the casually drooping legs, the domestic field wasp is characterized by its distinctive body shape. A teardrop-shaped abdomen with a black and yellow color attaches to the chest piece.
  • Body length queen: 15-18 mm
  • Body length worker and drone: 11-15 mm
  • Distinguishing feature: legs in the lower third orange-colored
Heath Field Wasp(Polistes nimpha)
Peaceful and shy, that's how the heather wasp appears. In contrast to the domestic field wasp, an encounter will not take place anyway, because the native wasp species prefers heather landscapes and reed beds for their nest building.
  • Body length queen: 12-16 mm
  • Body length worker and drone: 9-11 mm
  • Distinguishing feature: long, yellow legs, black mouthparts
Petite field wasp(Polistes bischoffi)
The smallest field wasp in Europe lives up to its name. A petite build and the typical yellow-black coloring. It is obvious that such a small wasp could not harm humans, even if it wanted to. Indeed, this native wasp species is extremely shy.
  • Body length queen: 10-14 mm
  • Body length worker and drone: 8-11 mm
  • Distinguishing feature: first segment on the abdomen with a yellow spot
Mountain Field Wasp(Polistes biglumis)
As global warming progresses, the mountain wasp is increasingly conquering regions north of the Alps. This is no cause for alarm, because the queen and worker are only concerned with rearing the brood. The mountain wasp usually builds small nests near the ground on stones or stable plant stems.
  • Body length queen: 12-16 mm
  • Body length worker and drone: 11-14 mm
  • Distinguishing feature: predominantly black, the first segment behind the wasp waist is drawn in yellow
Mountain Wasp Cuckoo Wasp(Polistes atrimandibularis)
In tow of the mountain wasp, a cuckoo wasp that specializes in the wasp species spreads across Germany. Fatally, the queen is usually taller, so that her attempted coup in the nest is successful. With a single stab she kills the current ruler. As soon as the workers of the real mountain wasps register the death of their queen, they submit to the invader. Most of the time people don't notice the drama.
  • Body length queen: 15-18 mm
  • Body length drone: 12-16 mm
  • Distinguishing feature:

Peaceful species of wasps

They are primarily species from the long-headed wasps that live in peaceful coexistence with humans. Furthermore, common wasp species are characterized by peaceful, shy behavior. If the workers are looking for food, they will flee in an emergency instead of pulling out their sharp stings. As long as people don't hit them, there is nothing to worry about. These 8 species of wasps do not sting:
  • Medium wasp (Dolichovespula media)
  • Saxon wasp (Dolichovespula saxonica)
  • Wood wasp (Dolichovespula sylvestris)
  • Fake cuckoo wasp (Dolichovespula adulterina)
  • House Field Wasp, Gallic Field Wasp (Polistes dominula)
  • Heath Field Wasp (Polistes nimpha)
  • Petite field wasp (Polistes bischoffi)
  • Mountain wasp (Polistes biglumis)