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European wasp white bg.jpg
German wasp (Vespula germanica)
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Vespidae
Subfamily: Vespinae
Genus: Vespula
Thomson, 1869
Type species
Vespa austriaca
Panzer, 1799[1]

23 species

  • Pseudovespa Schmiedeknecht 1881
  • Allovespula Blüthgen, 1943
  • Rugovespula Archer, 1982

Vespula is a small genus of social wasps, widely distributed in the Northern Hemisphere. Along with members of their sister genus Dolichovespula, they are collectively known by the common name yellowjackets (or yellow jackets) in North America. Vespula species have a shorter oculomalar space (shown in the figure below right) and a more pronounced tendency to nest underground than Dolichovespula.

Notable species[edit]

  • While most species of this genus inhabit North America, four Vespula species inhabit Europe, namely V. austriaca, V. germanica, V. rufa, and V. vulgaris.
  • Two common European species, the German wasp (V. germanica) and the common wasp (V. vulgaris), have established in other countries; both species are now found in New Zealand, Australia, and South America, while the former has also been introduced in North America, and the latter in Southern Africa.
  • The eastern yellowjacket (V. maculifrons) and western yellowjacket (V. pensylvanica) are native to North America.
Illustration showing oculomalar space


See also:


The venom of Vespula is mostly composed of antigen 5, hyaluronidase, and phospholipase.[King et al 1983 1]


A high degree of similarity occurs between immunogenic fractions of different Vespula species.[King et al 1983 2][King et al 1983 3]​ Rabbit serum antibodies are unable to distinguish between them.[King et al 1983 2][King et al 1983 3]


  1. ^ James M. Carpenter & Jun-ichi Kojima (1997). "Checklist of the species in the subfamily Vespinae (Insecta: Hymenoptera: Vespidae)" (PDF). Natural History Bulletin of Ibaraki University. 1: 51–92.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Vespula, BugGuide
  3. ^ Jacobson, R. S.; Matthews, R. W.; Macdonald, J. F. (1978-05-15). "A Systematic Study of the Vespula vulgaris Group with a Description of a New Yellowjacket Species in Eastern North America (Hymenoptera: Vespidae)1". Annals of the Entomological Society of America. 71 (3): 299–312. doi:10.1093/aesa/71.3.299. ISSN 0013-8746.
  1. ^ p. 306, "Yellowjacket venom consists mainly of three proteins: antigen 5, hyaluronidase, and phospholipase."
  2. ^ a b p. 307, "The venom phospholipases isolated from the three species of yellowjackets in this report were found to be immunochemically indistinguishable from each other using sera from rabbits immunized with venom from a single species of yellowjacket. Similar findings were obtained with antigen 5."
  3. ^ a b p. 304, "Identical concentrations of phospholipase-specific antibodies were obtained with immunosorbents containing phospholipase from any of the three species of yellowjackets. This was also the case for antigen 5-specific antibodies. ... The above results indicate that antigen 5s as well as phospholipases from these three species of yellowjackets are antigenically indistinguishable. The findings were confirmed by immunodiffusion. Lines of identity were observed when antigen 5s, or phospholipases, from the three species of yellowjackets were tested with rabbit anti-serum specific for V. maculifrons venom (results not shown)."