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These plants, funghi and insect illustrations
are part of my botanical oracle deck

Vespula vulgaris | Common Wasp

Entomological Overview of Common Wasp

  • Scientific Name: Vespula vulgaris

  • Common Names: Common Wasp, European Wasp, Yellow Jacket

  • Family: Vespidae

  • Description: The Common Wasp, Vespula vulgaris, is a social insect known for its distinctive black and yellow banded body. Workers, the non-reproductive females, measure about 12-17 mm, while queens can grow up to 20 mm. Drones, the male wasps, are similar in size to workers but slightly more slender and have longer antennae. Common Wasps have powerful mandibles for cutting food and defending the nest, and a stinger that can inject venom multiple times. Their bodies are less hairy than bees, which assists in their streamlined flight and makes them agile flyers. The species is known for its aggressive behavior, especially when disturbed or when defending its nest.

Properties of Common Wasp

  • Behavior: Common Wasps are highly social, living in colonies that can contain thousands of individuals. Each colony is founded in the spring by a single queen who emerges from hibernation, lays eggs, and begins to build the nest. The first brood of workers takes over the tasks of foraging, nest expansion, and caring for subsequent broods. Wasps communicate through pheromones and exhibit coordinated defensive behaviors. Their diet is diverse; adult wasps consume primarily sugary substances such as nectar, fruit juices, and honeydew, while the larvae are fed protein-rich prey like insects. Wasps use their powerful mandibles to capture and dismember prey, which is then chewed into a paste and fed to the larvae. In late summer and early autumn, wasps can become more aggressive and problematic as they scavenge for food.

Distribution and Habitat of Common Wasp

  • Native Range: Europe, Asia, and parts of North Africa.

  • Current Range: Common Wasps have been introduced to various parts of the world, including North America, Australia, and New Zealand, where they are considered invasive species. They thrive in temperate climates and have adapted to a wide range of environments.

  • Preferred Habitat: Common Wasps are highly adaptable and can be found in diverse habitats, including forests, meadows, urban areas, and agricultural lands. They typically nest in sheltered locations such as underground burrows, tree hollows, wall cavities, or in human-made structures like attics and sheds. The nests are constructed from chewed wood fibers mixed with saliva, forming a paper-like material that is light yet durable.

Role in the Ecosystem of Common Wasp

  • Predation: Common Wasps play a crucial role as predators in ecosystems. They help control populations of other insects, including pests such as caterpillars, flies, and spiders. This predatory behavior contributes to the balance of insect communities and can reduce the need for chemical pest control in agricultural and garden settings. By preying on a variety of species, they support biodiversity and the health of their habitats.

  • Pollination: Although less efficient than bees, Common Wasps contribute to pollination while foraging for nectar. Their visits to flowers result in the incidental transfer of pollen, aiding in the reproductive processes of plants. This role is particularly important in late summer and autumn when many other pollinators are less active.

  • Scavenging: Wasps are also scavengers and play a role in breaking down and recycling organic matter. They consume overripe fruits, decaying animal matter, and other organic debris, which helps clean up the environment and return nutrients to the soil. This scavenging behavior, while beneficial in natural settings, can sometimes bring them into conflict with humans when they are attracted to outdoor food and garbage.

Magical Correspondences and Uses in Magical Practice of Common Wasp

  • Element: Fire

  • Planet: Mars

  • Magical Properties: Protection, vigilance, communication, and transformation.

  • Uses: In magical practices, the Common Wasp is associated with protection and the ability to defend oneself or one's space. Their aggressive and territorial nature makes them powerful symbols for creating boundaries and guarding against intrusions or negativity. Wasps can be invoked in rituals or spells to strengthen personal defenses and ensure vigilance against potential threats. Their ability to adapt and thrive in various environments aligns them with transformation and resilience, making them suitable for workings that involve overcoming challenges or navigating changes. The social structure of wasps, with their clear roles and effective communication, can inspire teamwork and coordinated efforts in group settings. They can be called upon to enhance communication, especially in situations requiring clarity and assertiveness. Additionally, their association with fire and the planet Mars connects them to the energies of action, courage, and the pursuit of goals with determination.

Folklore, Legends, and Mythology of Common Wasp

  • European Folklore: In European folklore, wasps are often seen as harbingers of trouble or aggression, reflecting their stinging capabilities and defensive behavior. However, they are also recognized for their industrious nature and their role in controlling pests. Wasps have been depicted as symbols of warning and caution, urging people to be mindful of their surroundings and to protect themselves from harm.

  • Ancient Roman Symbolism: The ancient Romans admired the wasp for its bravery and combativeness, often associating it with the god Mars, the deity of war. Wasps were seen as natural warriors, embodying the virtues of courage, strength, and readiness to fight. Their ability to deliver multiple stings without dying, unlike honeybees, made them symbols of relentless force and resilience.

  • Asian Myths: In some Asian cultures, wasps are considered omens of good fortune or as protectors of the home. Their presence near a house was believed to bring strength and vigilance to its inhabitants. In Japanese folklore, wasps are seen as messengers of the gods, capable of carrying prayers to the divine realms and returning with guidance or blessings.

  • Native American Views: Among some Native American tribes, wasps are respected for their role in nature and their industriousness. They are seen as exemplars of hard work and perseverance. The Cheyenne and other Plains tribes included wasps in their creation myths and regarded them as sacred beings with important roles in the ecosystem.

Historical Literary Sources

  • "The Wasps" by Aristophanes (422 BC): An ancient Greek comedy that humorously highlights the behavior and characteristics of wasps, using them as a metaphor for the pugnacious and litigious nature of Athenian society.

  • "Wasp Facts & Information" by James Harding (2020): Provides a detailed account of the biology, behavior, and ecological significance of wasps, including the Common Wasp.

  • "The Life of the Caterpillar" by Jean-Henri Fabre (1916): Offers insights into the interactions between wasps and other insects, detailing their predatory behaviors and role in the natural world.


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