The European wasp (Vespula germanica) is native to Europe, North Africa and temperate Asia. However, the European wasp has spread from its native range to North America, New Zealand, South Africa, South America and Australia. It reached Tasmania in 1959, and has since spread to Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia and Western Australia, while isolated nests have been found in southern Queensland.
The European wasp was first sighted in Melbourne in 1977 and within five years it colonised much of the greater Melbourne area — being a scavenging insect, it prefers to coexist with humans to share our food and crops. By the 1990s, the European wasp was established throughout most other parts of Victoria.
The European wasp worker is about the same size as a bee, about 15mm in length, but has conspicuous lemon-yellow banded markings on its black body and is not as hairy as a bee. The queens and the males are larger, about 17 to 20mm long, but with markings like the workers.
European wasps are attracted to foodstuffs and drinks and can interfere with outdoor eating and living. Unlike a honeybee, the European wasp can sting repeatedly, especially if its nest is disturbed. European wasps can also be a problem for fruit growers, beekeepers and food processors.
Information on the symptoms and treatment of European wasp stings, including allergic reactions is available at Better Health.
Pets or domestic animals stung by wasps may become agitated. If the site of the sting is known, keep the animal as quiet as possible and apply first aid, as for humans. If the animal is distressed seek veterinary treatment as soon as possible.
For more information see Australian Museum's European wasp page.