Separating the two Vespula species in NZ


According to "Social Wasps, their biology and control" (available on, males can only be separated with reference to genitalia:

"Since the genitalia of the males are very characteristic and essential for correct identification, it is recommended that these parts should be extracted with fine needle as soon as the specimen has been killed."
Page 330/331, start of chapter "The British Species"

For the key to species, the only character given for males to separate vulgaris and germanica relates to genitalia.
For vulgaris: "Penis of males with a small barb on each side below the apical expansion which is not emarginate at the tip."
For germanica: "Penis of males with a small semicircular process on each side below the apical expansion, which is emarginate at the tip."
Couplet 6, Pages 337/338.

Similarly, from another New Zealand study: "Fifteen percent of common males had the typical German frontal patch colour marking, with no yellow extensions of the lower margin (Fig. 13A). Clypeal marks of both species were very variable (and quite different from those of workers and queens) (Fig. 14). They did not separate the species."
Clapperton BK, Lo PL, Moller H, Sandlant GR (1989) Variation in colour markings of German wasps Vespula germanica (F.) and common wasps Vespula vulgaris (L.) (Hymenoptera: Vespidae) in New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Zoology 16:303–313.

Workers & Queens

Distinguishing workers and queens is possible by using the genal band, clypeal pattern, or markings on the pronotum. Markings on the abdomen are too variable and do not allow accurate identification, as detailed in Clapperton et al and also:
Donovan BJ (1984) Occurrence of the common wasp, Vespula vulgaris (L.) (Hymenoptera: Vespidae) in New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Zoology 11:417–427.

Posted on January 27, 2021 08:19 AM by tom_saunders tom_saunders


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