German yellowjacket

(Vespula germanica)

Conservation Status
German yellowjacket
Photo by Bill Reynolds
  IUCN Red List

not listed


NNR - Unranked


not listed


German yellowjacket is a medium-sized, predatory, social, non-native wasp. It is native to Europe, Asia, and North Africa. It was unintentionally introduced into Canada in the 1960s and the eastern United States in the 1970s. It quickly spread and by 1989 it had reached California.

Adults are ½ to long. The stout body is slightly wider than the head.

There are two large compound eyes, one on each side of the head; and three small simple eyes (ocelli) at the top of the head between the compound eyes. The yellow band behind the compound eye is continuous to the jaw (mandible), not narrowed or interrupted. The upper (dorsal) space between the compound eyes is entirely black—there is no yellow “eye loop”. The gap between the mandible and the compound eye is narrow, no more than the diameter of one ocellus. The distance between the rear ocellus and the hind margin of the upper surface of the head (vertex) is no more than the diameter of one ocellus. The face has three small black spots.

The antennae are long and black.

The dorsal surface of the largest section of the thorax (scutum) is black with no stripes down the middle. A yellow band at the leading edge of the pronotum is interrupted at the apex (nearest to the head).

The abdomen of the female has six segments, while that of the male has seven segments. The upper plate (tergum) of each abdominal segment is yellow with black markings. The first tergum has a diamond-shaped basal mark that is less than twice as wide as long. At least one of the remaining terga has a pair of black spots completely surrounded by yellow, not connected to the basal black mark.

The legs are yellow.

The wings are clear.




Females: ½ to


Similar Species






May to the first hard frost




Worker wasps are short lived. Throughout their life they will perform 3 or 4 tasks, one at a time, at different stages of their life.


Life Cycle


In the spring a queen emerges from hibernation and mates with up to 7 males. In early summer she builds an embryonic nest. The papery nest is constructed from chewed wood fibers cemented with saliva. It is usually built underground but may also be built in an stump, attic, roof, hollow wall, or other sheltered part of a human structure. It begins as just three hexagonal cells, and into each cell she deposits a single egg. She continues building cells while caring for the grubs as they hatch. Through spring and summer the queen produces a large number of worker wasps. In late summer she begins producing queens and males. In Minnesota the nests do not survive the winter. Old queens, males, and workers are killed by cold weather in the fall, while new queens hibernate.


Larva Food


Pre-chewed fragments of caterpillars and other soft-bodied insects.


Adult Food


Live arthropods; carrion; fruit; honeydew of aphids, caterpillars, and some scale insects; human processed food and garbage; and other sources of protein and sugar. Queens feed on flower nectar in the spring.


Distribution Map


24, 29, 30, 82.







Hymenoptera (ants, bees, wasps, and sawflies)  


Apocrita (narrow-waisted wasps, ants, and bees)  


Aculeata (ants, bees, and stinging wasps)  


Vespoidea (vespoid wasps)  


Vespidae (hornets, paper wasps, potter wasps, and allies)  


Vespinae (hornets and yellowjackets)  


Vespula (ground yellowjackets)  

Some authorities, including ITIS37, elevate the subgenus Paravespula to the genus level, treating this species as Paravespula germanica, but this is not generally accepted. Most do not include this species within any subgenus.




Paravespula germanica


Common Names


German yellow-jacket

German yellowjacket











Simple eye; an eye with a single lens. Plural: ocelli.



The saddle-shaped, exoskeletal plate on the upper side of the first segment of the thorax of an insect.



The forward (anterior) portion of the middle segment of the thorax (mesonotum) in insects and some arachnids.



The upper (dorsal) surface of a body segment of an arthropod. Plural: terga.



The upper surface of an insect’s head.






Visitor Photos

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Bill Reynolds

    German yellowjacket   German yellowjacket  








Visitor Videos

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Other Videos
  German Yellowjacket (Vespidae: Vespula germanica) Grooming
Carl Barrentine

Uploaded on Jul 27, 2011

This non-native species, which is becoming quite noticable this time of the summer, is the most common yellowjacket species in our residential area. Photographed at Grand Forks, North Dakota (27 July 2011).

  German Yellowjacket (Vespulidae: Vespula germanica) Queen in Torpor Position
Carl Barrentine

Uploaded on Nov 7, 2010

This specimen, only minutes into an arousal state, was found in a state of torpor clinging to the underside of an old piece of lumber in contact with the soil. Note the tucked posture and protective wing position of this overwintering individual. Photographed at Grand Forks, North Dakota (07 November 2010). Thank you to Richard Vernier ( for confirming the identity of this specimen!

  German Wasp (Vespula germanica) collecting wood for nest
Stephen Plummer

Published on May 18, 2012

A German Wasp (Vespula germanica) collecting wood from an old Hogweed stem for its nest at Yarmouth on 18th May 2012. The noise in the background is a Water Rail. Further information at

  (Dolichovespula) Vespula germanica

Uploaded on Apr 7, 2010

  My Yellowjacket Small Familys In My Garden pt 1
Sarai Alvarez

Uploaded on Jun 1, 2010

never disturbed them and they never attacked me or my family,this kind is the german yellowjacket.




Visitor Sightings

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  Bill Reynolds

Location: Pennington Co.

Yesterday, the queens of fall were emerging from their hive.  About a dozen or so were hanging around the nest site.

German yellowjacket  






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