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Updated 9 August 2019 1:08pm

German wasp
Vespula vulgaris, V. germanica
Photo: Landcare Research

Why are wasps a problem?

New Zealand has some of the highest densities of Common and German wasps in the world. This is because there are no natural wasp predators, lots of things for them to eat, and our winters are mild.

Native wasps have never been a problem but introduced wasps are a significant pest. They

  • Pose a danger to people working outdoors or who are allergic to their sting
  • Reduce honeybees’ productivity by raiding beehives and diminishing their food supply
  • Have been known to kill newly hatched birds in their nest
  • Eat native insects and honey dew, which are important food sources for many native species including kaka, tui and gecko

About wasps

The wasp pests in New Zealand are:

  • Common and German wasps. Both have distinctive yellow and black striped bodies and hold their legs close to their body when they fly. They live in large nests that are usually the size of a soccer ball. The common wasp nest is yellowish to reddish brown and the German wasp nest is grey. The nest can become larger if the colony survives the winter. Both these wasps can use their sting repeatedly. 
Common wasp. D. Sikes, Creative Commons
  • Paper wasps (Asian and Australian). Asian paper wasps are black and yellow and Australian paper wasps are reddish brown. They both have a long and slender body with their legs hanging loose. Their nests are small and built out of regurgitated woody material, about the size of a pear. The recently arrived European paper wasp is only thought to be in the top of the South Island. 
Asian paper wasp. John Wattie, Creative Commons

 What can I do?

If the nest is small and you are not allergic to stings, then you can do it yourself. But, if the nest is large then contact a professional pest controller. 

Find and destroy a wasp nest
  1. Start by tracking wasps to their nest. It is usually within 200 metres and can be on a building, tree, or in the ground. This is easier in the late afternoon or evening

  2. Buy an insecticide from your local garden or hardware store

  3. Carefully follow the instructions and place the insecticide at all entrances to the nest. It's safer to do this when the weather is fine and after dark when there are fewer wasps around. 

Worker wasps will spread the powder into the nest and the colony usually dies within a day. If the nest is still active after a few days then repeat the procedure the next fine eveing

Safety Tips

  • Don't shine your torch into the nest or wasps will fly up the beam toward you
  • Vibration around the nest can stir the wasps, so tread lightly 
  • If the entrance in the ground is covered with leaves, then rake quickly, leave immediately, and return the next day to treat the nest

Trap wasps when they're out and about

If you can't find the wasps' nest then build a trap to catch them - all you need is a plastic bottle, water, sugar, and vinegar. Make your own wasp trap. 

Most wasps die off during winter and the queen hibernates until the spring. In October the queen starts a new nest, so early spring is the time to trap queens and stop them building new nests.

TapTrap offers some useful information about wasp traps.

NoPests' Wasp Dome Trap is an effective commercial product.

Control several nests over a large area

A meat based bait called Vespex has been developed in conjunction with the Department of Conservation (DOC) to control wasps over large areas. It is effective in environments where their food supply is scarce and at times of the year when they are eating protein. 

Vespex contains the insecticide fipronil and is placed in secure bait stations. Wasps eat the bait and take it back to their nests to feed (and poison) the rest of the colony. 

This method and bait is especially useful when you can't find where the wasps are nesting. It is also targeted at wasps and is not attractive to bees. 

Vespex is avaialble from Nelson-based company Merchento. All users must pass an online test and become an approved user to ensure they use it according to instructions. For information on Vespex see DOC's website

If you find a wasp nest in a park or forest then note the area, take a photo if you can, and contact us on 0800 496 734 or email

More information

Greater Wellington wasps brochure
Department of Conservation: Wasps
Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research: Wasp Web
Bionet - information about pests and disease in New Zealand

    New Zealand has some of the highest densities of Common and German wasps in the world. This is provides a favourable habitat for wasps because of our mild winters, there are no natural wasp predators, and a plentiful lots of food supplythings for them to eat, and our winters are mild. This has led New Zealand to have some of the highest densities of Common and German wasps in the world.

    Native wasps have never been a problem but introduced wasps are a significant pest. Introduced wasps are causing a number of problems throughout the country. They: