The long headed wasps are in the family Dolichovespula and although able to inflict a painful sting these wasps often shy away from us and in the case of the Median wasp (Dolichovespula media) these are quite timid, flap your hands at them and they will fly away. A recent new arrival in the UK, the Saxon wasp (Dolichovespula saxonica) can be a problem as these wasps finish early in the season and we will often encounter huge areas swathed in directionless wasps as the Queen has died and they have abandoned the nest. Another common long headed wasp found in woodland are Tree wasps (Dolichovespula Sylvestris), this wasp can be identified by a solid yellow face with a small central black dot.
One wasp that is yet to arrive at our shores but will not be far away (if its not here already) is the Cuckoo wasp (Dolichovespula adulterine), these prey on the Saxon wasp where the Queen Cuckoo wasp sneaks into the nest of the Saxon wasp, kills the rival Queen then uses the Saxon workers to bring up her brood.
An even more recent arrival to the UK is the European Paper wasp (Polistes dominula) which live in small communities and have a weak sting so these present much less of a problem to us as a pest, these have been found in Kent so it will be interesting to see their spread across the country.
When it comes to hornets we only have a single species of hornet – the European hornet (Vespa crabro), a large and extremely loud insect these demand respect although they are quite calm and will only sting if you get near the nest or if you stand in the insects flight path, stay to one side and you’re quite safe.
There is a lot or press coverage regarding the invasive species of hornet known as the Asian hornet (Vespa velutina), this arrived in France back in 2004 where it has decimated honeybee colonies and resulted in some fatalities. The Asian hornet has been spotted in the Channel Islands and in southern counties, they commonly build nests high in the tree canopy and a good time to look out for these is when the leaves drop revealing round ‘paper lantern’ style nests.