Australian Wasps: Big, Bad and Painful?

by BobinOz on February 19, 2010

in Australia's Bad Things

It’s been quite a while since I have had a new kind of intruder come into my house. I have had new intruders on my land recently, I think the last one was the beautiful green tree frog. But nothing actually in the house for some time.

Until yesterday.

First, a little background. Having had a perfectly stable childhood I have no “monkeys in the basement” to trouble me. That is to say I have no fears, phobias or irrational thoughts. Nothing freaks me out whatsoever, except……


I am the sort of okay with them until they start trying to sniff my chips, or drink my drink. That’s when the relaxing meal in the beer garden turns into a frenzy with my arms flailing around all over the place with the ZZZZZZzzzzzzzZZZzzz sound surrounding me from all directions driving me nuts!

It’s all much undignified.

But yesterday, as I was working on my computer in my office, I heard a loud buzzing noise in the background which I thought was a fly. The buzzing stopped so I ignored it. But a few moments later I saw him.

potter wasp Australia

The Potter Wasp

I wasn’t quick enough to photograph him as you will see, but he definitely looked like this one, photograph courtesy of eeekaysphotography.

He wasn’t making that silly buzzing noise all the time, he was kind of hovering or floating in silence. He was quite a big wasp, with a droopy backend. He looked quite scary really.

I wouldn’t have wanted him to sting me, or anyone else in the house. So I had a cunning plan. I walked out of my office, shutting the door behind me. My office also backs on to the garage and has a connecting door. The garage, of course, leads out into the big wide open world.

You can see where I’m going with this, can’t you?

I walked out of the front door of my house, went into the garage through the garage doors and propped open the connecting door between my office and the garage. All I had to do now is wait for the wasps to leave.

Have you ever tried that with a European wasp? You can open doors, you can open windows, you could remove the roof of the house with a tin opener, you can try to get it to leave by waving a rolled up newspaper at it. But would those wasps leave?

Not in my experience.

But this little cutie, still without buzzing, simply turned and slowly glided out of the door, through the garage, out of the garage doors and flew off into the distance.

What a nice wasp.

Turns out it’s called the Potter Wasp. We have quite a few of those around here in Brisbane. They very rarely sting and are described as a solitary wasp. I assume that means they don’t form gangs and terrorise picnickers like the wasp from Europe do.

Then it struck me. I have been here something like two years and three months, that’s the first wasp ever to enter our house. Sure, we’ve seen them in the garden quite often, but strangely, not in an irritating way. Australia is almost wasp free!

No it isn’t.

Having done a little research, it turns out that Australia has something like 12,000 species of wasp, some so small you can barely see them with the naked eye. Perhaps that explains it.

Worse still, Australia does have the European wasp. The first sighting was in Tasmania in 1959, and they have since been seen in Victoria, the Australian Capital Territory, south-eastern New South Wales and South Australia.

But not yet Queensland; that also explains it. And I hope they stay away from here too, I much prefer the Potter Wasp.

So, unfortunately, Australia does have wasps. I had been told Australian wasps were vicious, the sting was extremely painful and if I remember correctly, the paper wasp was the most aggressive.

But from what I have seen, wasps here are nowhere near as bad as back in England. One wasp in my house in over two years! That’s not bad is it? And the acid test, I’ve never seen one in the baker’s cream cake cabinet.

I rest my case.

Update: Here are a couple of pics of a big boy spotted by Maurice, see his comment below.



wasp 2



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{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

Merl July 5, 2010 at 1:07 pm

Actually, I love honey bees and good natured wasps. I have found that if one deals with them in a calm, polite, respectful manner, and talks to them; that they are less inclined to charge, chase, and sting; they are very intelligent creatures. While weeding our garden, I have reached into bee bushes and flower baskets for years without getting stung, because I talk to my bees all the time; so they know me. I have been gently but firmly head butted by a wasp who wanted me to get out of his way. Once they get to know you as a friend, they will not sting, unless they are the killer type pit bees–the pit bulls of the bee world. Like humans, most bees and wasps are nice unless threatened, frightened, or provoked.


BobinOz July 7, 2010 at 7:17 pm

I love bees too really, but I have to say I’d never met a good natured wasp in the UK. They dart around like frantic lunatics over there. But this fella here in Australia, yes, he was calm. And I didn’t even have to talk to him. Perhaps I will start.

thanks Merl.


leash November 9, 2014 at 1:01 am

Hi i’m Australian born and raised, never even left my country, :) so i don’t no about wasp in other countries, however i do know about ours!! The paper wasp and me are pretty much enemies i’d say!! I’m 19yrs old and have been stung 16 times, when i was 5 got stung 7 times at once, and no matter how many times iv been stung i still scream like I’m being bloody murdered, SO SO much PAIN!!! And all i ever did was apparently walk in the wrong direction. So trust me mates stay away from them, and don’t just assume if you leave them alone they will do the same. Cheers :)


BobinOz November 9, 2014 at 10:07 pm

Ah, yes, the paper wasp, that’s a different thing altogether. They are a nasty piece of work, I know myself, I’ve had first-hand experience. They attack in numbers, which will explain why you got nailed seven times when you were just five years old, I think I got stung four times when a bunch of them jumped me in my back garden…

The Potter Wasp though, as mentioned in this article, I still think they are okay.

Cheers, Bob


Gracie March 13, 2011 at 10:29 pm

I hate wasps too! Bees as well. Absolutely my biggest fear.


BobinOz March 14, 2011 at 5:29 pm

Well, yes. I say bees good, wasps bad. But then I suppose if you get stung by a bee, then bees are bad too.


Rochelle from WA February 5, 2013 at 3:47 pm

I don’t like wasps. Or Bees. Or spiders…Pretty much anything with legs that isn’t a daddy long legs. hahaha. I am brave for the kids though so I can try to educate them, rather than have them just want to curl into a ball (like I want to do) when they see one.
I just had one of these Potter Wasps in the shed here with me. I tried soooo hard to stay put and let it look around before leaving, but I couldn’t. I pretty much ran out of the shed and if I had one of those mirrors on a stick (like the spies do, to look under doors) I would’ve used that to peek around the corner of the door to make sure it had exited through one of the windows. It’s gone now, PHEW!! But it reminded me of the time I stood on a wasp. The sting between my toes was so incredibly painful I could barely walk for 2 weeks. I’ve also been stung and chased by a paper wasp. Nasty little things they are.
Don’t even get me started on how badly I puff up when a bee stings me. =/
I’m glad I read your post though. Thank you. You’ve put my mind at ease a little with the knowledge that these massive, child sized creatures, will not come and bother me too much.


BobinOz February 5, 2013 at 9:13 pm

Interesting timing of your post, I got jumped on by four paper wasps only the other day when I was doing some weeding, they are nasty little things, aren’t they? I got stung four times too, but fortunately for me, it didn’t hurt that bad and no real reaction.

I’ll probably be writing a post about that encounter tomorrow, but I’ve certainly learnt there are wasps and wasps, I liked the one in this article, he was nice, but those paper wasps, aargh!

Cheers Rochelle!


Dave December 18, 2013 at 5:38 pm

Hey Bob found your site cause I was strung twice by a wasp yesterday! Long story short, driving back from Adelaide to our country town and just about to exit highway, thought I’d light a cig. Window down and then bang, damn thing lodged in my shorts (fortunately I wasn’t driving). I try to avoid killing stuff but had no choice this time.

Have no idea what sort of wasp it was but it was all black. Talk about a painful bite. Least to say now sporting a nice lump on my upper (inner) thigh.


BobinOz December 19, 2013 at 1:30 pm

Hi Dave, it could have been a digger wasp, they are black. Like yourself, I prefer not to kill stuff, but on the other hand if something decides the sting you, what choice do you have? Man’s gotta do etc.

The direction this wasp was heading, you had no choice but to take him out :-)

Cheers, Bob


Dave December 19, 2013 at 10:54 pm

Hi Bob,

Yes you make a fair point, bad enough getting stung where it did, imagine some place else…eek! And thanks for the heads up on the type of wasp. Certainly wasn’t a European, Australian or paper wasp. Looked up the digger and it looks pretty similar.

Either way, woke up today to nice big red swollen lump and a visit to the Dr confirmed a nasty infection. So antibiotics for the next 5 days. Fortunately means I’ll just scrap in to being able to have a couple icy cold beers with the plate of prawns on Christmas day.




BobinOz December 20, 2013 at 1:15 pm

Dang! Wrong time of the year to be hit with antibiotics that’s for sure. Merry Christmas all the same, those icy beers will go down a treat by the time you get to the big day.

Cheers, Bob


Dave December 29, 2013 at 7:16 pm

Thanks Bob :)
All went well, hope you had a great day too :)
Oh and the AB’s did their job. Touch wood, I don’t experience that again!



BobinOz January 1, 2014 at 10:35 pm

Good to hear it Dave and yes, I did have a good day, cheers, Bob


Jim December 29, 2013 at 5:49 pm

From the Queensland Museum book your picture looks like a Mud-dauber wasp not a Potter wasp. The Potter Wasp is chunkier.


BobinOz January 1, 2014 at 10:31 pm

Hi Jim, I just looked at their website and I’m still convinced my wasp (and the wasp in the picture) is a potter wasp, the mud dauber looks yellow and black, not orange.


Maurice Brown January 12, 2014 at 10:43 am

SYDNEY 50 miles south west. I found a monster wasp today , took photos and captured it in a jar.
Its scary ! I do not know how to attatch a photo to this site but if you email me back I will send you a photo


BobinOz January 13, 2014 at 3:17 pm

A fine specimen; I’ve added your pictures to the above post. Thanks Maurice!



Robert Holmes February 26, 2014 at 2:40 pm

These orange Potter wasps have taken to nesting in my garage.
They keep coming back, and love to nest in cardboard boxes on on any wood.
Anyone know how I can get rid of them?


BobinOz February 27, 2014 at 7:05 pm

I would suspect the only way is to remove those cardboard boxes and wooden boxes that they like to nest in, I have started to use those plastic 55 L containers with lids, they don’t seem to be as fond of those.

Anyone got any better suggestions?


Dave November 10, 2014 at 12:20 am

I’m sure certain plants would encourage wasps not to take a liking to you garden or for that matter, your property. Cat’s go nuts for catnip. Citronella plants keep mosquitoes away. Therefore there must be a plant which wasps dislike ;)


BobinOz November 10, 2014 at 2:03 pm

Wormwood apparently, but the downside is that it’s poisonous. Apparently Vincent Van Gogh was on it when he cut off his own ear.


Elena June 17, 2014 at 2:26 pm

So can you tell me what these are?I think they look like Maurice’s but don’t know varieties. I found this nest in my back yard in Stanhope Gardens (North West suburb of Sydney.


BobinOz June 18, 2014 at 12:42 pm

Ah, yes, they almost certainly are Native Paper Wasps, nasty aggressive things, get too close to their nest and they will all attack you in numbers. You will probably need to get rid of that nest, especially if you have children who play in the garden.

You can read about my encounter with these critters in my post about the Native Paper Wasp of Australia.

They do have a good side though, they are good at pest control in the garden getting rid of unwanted caterpillars.

The real way to know whether these are Native Paper Wasps or not is by looking at the nest, it is a comb attached to the surface by one or more stalks. You’ll see pictures on my post.

Hope that helps, Bob


Dave June 18, 2014 at 3:58 pm

Hi Elena I’d take Bob’s advice and get rid of that nest. Believe me, you don’t want to get bitten by one wasp, let alone a gang of them.


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