European wasp: declared pest

Page last updated: Wednesday, 19 June 2019 - 5:07pm

Please note: This content may be out of date and is currently under review.

The European wasp is considered one of the worst wasps in the world - harmful to people, our outdoor lifestyles and to our horticultural and agricultural industries. Suspect European wasp sightings must be reported to our department.

2018-19 season

The 2018-19 European wasp season is drawing to a close. By winter nests have surpassed their peak. With fewer young mouths to feed, European wasps greatly lose their drive for protein (eg. fish), making them near impossible to trap as well as track back to their nests. 

Current nest numbers and locations are available as of 19 June 2019. Final statistics will be available from our web pages after 30 June 2019. 

During 2018-19, the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) placed additional traps and dedicated additional staff to surveillance and nest destruction. The Department had considerable success. As of 19 June 2019 we have found and destroyed 66 nests over a 3 month period, compared to 100 nests found in the previous 9 months.

Most notably, DPIRD staff had to search through national parks and reserves where thick bushland made it near impossible to find nests. Being able to locate and destory nests in these areas will significantly reduce the risk of nest numbers increasing and becoming harder to find.

The Department is still searching in suburbs where there could potentially still be nests. These include Banjup, Martin/Orange Grove, Kalamunda, Lesmurdie, Walliston and Pickering Brook. 

If you live in these areas, you can help us by continuing to look out for wasps. Reports of suspect wasp activity can be made all year round. Although the best time to be looking will be from September onwards, when the weather warms up and they start foraging for protein again.

Key impacts of European wasps

The European wasp, Vespula germanica, is a social wasp native to Europe, North Africa and temperate Asia. European wasp invasion to other regions has been greatly aided through hitching rides on human transportation. The wasp has become established in North America, Canada, Chile, Argentina, South Africa, New Zealand and in south-east Australia (SA, NSW, ACT, VIC and TAS). While occurrences of European wasp in Australia have been documented since 1960, the Western Australian European Wasp Eradication Program had successfully eradicated each detected wasp incursion in WA.

  • Pose a safety risk to land users due to their foraging activities, high aggression and hidden nests – e.g. maintenance and field staff, bush walkers, picnickers, residents, café patrons, orchardists etc.
  • Underground nests are difficult to see and disturbing a nest can lead to 1000s of wasps attacking in defense.
  • Risk to the environment – wasps compete with and predate on native insects; reducing insect numbers, biodiversity and ecosystem function.
  • Wasps forage for human food and drink as well as pet food – causing a nuisance and a health concern to people and pets.
  • Damage horticultural crops like grapes and stone fruits and predate on bees in managed apiaries – impacting home gardeners and industry alike.

Due to favourable environmental conditions and the lack of natural predators, the European wasp has the potential to become a greater pest in Western Australia than anywhere else in the world.

Each year fertilised wasp queens arrive in Western Australia via freight and cargo from the eastern states. The queens spread to find suitable places to seed new nests that will become large (mainly underground) nests. These nests would house many thousands of wasps.

Without ongoing surveillance trapping and public reporting, European wasps would become established in WA. The predicted range of establishment for European wasp in WA is from Kalbarri to Eucla.

The importance of taking action

Outside its natural habitat of Europe and North Africa, this wasp becomes a serious social, environmental and agricultural pest.

High wasp population densities would threaten WA’s outdoor lifestyle, tourism, human health and the well-being of our pets and livestock. Horticulture, viticulture and apiculture industries would suffer if this pest became established in WA.

Since 1994, the Agriculture and Food Division of the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) has been working with the community to conduct a surveillance and eradication program. Increased community awareness and reporting is keeping this program a success. Learn more about the Adopt-a-Trap Program.

For more information contact:

Pest and Disease Information Service (PaDIS)
Telephone:+61 (0)8 9368 3080
Email: padis@dpird.wa.gov.au