Australian Wasps: Big, Bad and Painful?

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. Well almost, please be sure to read update 2 below this first update.

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



wasp 2

Update 2:

This though was a very different story…


Visa Assessment Service
{ 39 comments… add one }
  • King of the Wasps April 15, 2018, 10:36 am |

    I concur with Merl, the quiet wasps display more intelligence and patience than some humans I know.
    I owned and ran a pottery in SE Queensland back in the 80s up in the ranges. The first potter wasp I saw terrified me.
    The size!
    The colour that tells you “danger”.
    I had only experienced European paper wasps in Sydney and knew they were potential killers for children and pets.
    These potter wasps apparently had been using the huge 100 year old barn I converted into a pottery to build their clay nests, to lay eggs and spiders in for decades. I found hundreds of empty red clay nests at the back of the barn. I carefully fired them in my kiln and glazed their inside and found a ready market for them with local orchid fanciers who used them to start orchids.
    The wasps used the local red clay. They apparently return to their place of origin to create new nurseries. When these beautiful females discovered my grey coloured stoneware clay the red nests changed colour. My clay was closer than the red.
    To cut long to short, I grew fond of my wasps, my girls. Not only did they provide me with annual supplies of orchid starters, kept spider numbers down (I never saw a red-back or funnel-web in the many years I lived and worked there and that particular district has been described as funnel-web central, on at least one authoritive online site, boasting record sightings of the funnel.) I was never once stung or even threatened. I grew surprising comfortable with their presence. So fond was I that I had no qualms as they collected clay from my clothes, arms and hair while I worked.
    One time I was at my wheel and one of the wasps began hovering in front of my face. Really close. I was startled but kept calm and I had the strongest notion it was showing me the bloody big spider it had caught. It was showing off! I followed it to the nursery and watched fascinated as it pushed the spider into one of its pots.
    They are aptly named as they make superb potters, I must add. They will make several containers the size of their body with a lid, attach it to trees or walls and do it all by chewing and refining the clay with their mouth, removing foreign matter and producing smooth clay without air bubbles (a fortunate thing for me as air bubbles in dry clay can create problems when fired).
    I like to think the Potter Wasp is typically Australian, laid back and friendly, but not to spiders.

    • BobinOz April 16, 2018, 5:16 pm |

      I found Merl’s comment right at the bottom, not sure why I didn’t respond to it when it originally came in, I can only think that for some reason I didn’t see it.

      Well, as you can see from my post here about the Potter Wasp, I’m a fan as well. Much much calmer and less aggressive than the European wasp, that’s for sure.

      I had one stuck between my T-shirt and my chest once, I didn’t know what it was at first, all I felt was some kind of insect crawling around in there. So I ripped my T-shirt off and threw it to the ground, and this gentlemanly and rather large wasp crawled out and just floated away into the sky.

      Nice idea to take advantage of their great pottery work.

  • Zamiel March 3, 2017, 2:25 pm |

    I live in nsw and i have 3 diffrent species of non aggressive wasps living in my yard one is a native paper wasp another is mud wasps and the last one I couldn’t identify they have a nest which looks like tree sap and they are really small & mostly black

    • BobinOz March 3, 2017, 8:10 pm |

      I was viciously attacked in my own back garden by paper wasps, and judging by the comments on that page, so have quite a few other people. You might not think they are aggressive, but if you get anywhere near close to their nest, they will swarm out in numbers and attack you.

      I’ve seen plenty of mud wasp nests, but they’ve always been empty. Not sure I’ve actually seen a mud wasp though and I have no idea what those small black wasps are. I don’t think any of our wasps are anywhere near as aggressive as the European wasp though.

  • alexandra June 11, 2016, 1:54 pm |

    Oh no! Even calling a green tree frog “an intruder”!!!
    What an honour to have one in your garden!
    These native animals are so much better at adapting to humans invading their territory than we are to them.

    • BobinOz June 12, 2016, 9:21 pm |

      Don’t get too excited Alexandra, I love these things intruding, especially the green tree frog. My wife absolutely adores those things as well.

      I just call them intruders because, well, they are 🙂 I love the wildlife here, mostly.

      I say mostly because of cockroaches, mosquitoes and cane toads.

  • Tammy May 18, 2016, 3:52 am |

    Hi, I’m commenting from the UK after googling ‘what wasps there are in Australia?’. I have an Oscar-winning wasp phobia; yes I do the flailing arms and running around like a crazy woman thing too. Threw champagne over a guest at a posh wedding once, all because a wasp landed on my glass… I’ve been looking at emigrating to Australia with my family for a few years now but the only thing that would seriously put me off is how aggressive the flying bugs are. Would you say the wasps are more aggressive than our beloved European wasp or just touchy if you disturb them?
    Thanks so much for the useful and funny post.

    • BobinOz May 18, 2016, 11:44 pm |

      Sorry Tammy, please give me a minute, I’m still laughing about that champagne/wedding thing 🙂

      Okay, I’ve got my laughter down to a grin now, so I can continue.

      I am not a phobia kind of guy, but if there was one thing that cheesed me off in the UK, it was wasps. Since I’ve lived here though, and I’ve been here more than eight years now, I can definitely confirm that the wasp situation is so much better in Australia. I really hardly ever see them.

      I can say that without doubt you will be less troubled by wasps here in Australia than you currently are by the European wasps in the UK.

      That said, I did have one rather bad encounter. I’ve just added an update to this post and a link to that event, that way you can read about when I was viciously attacked.

      Don’t let that put you off coming to Australia though, this only happened to me once since I’ve been here to get stung like that, and I’d take it all day long over always having wasps trying to drink my beer in the UK or dive for my daughter’s Coca-Cola any time it got slightly warm enough to sit in the beer garden. Thanks for making me laugh, Bob

  • Rohan January 13, 2016, 4:18 pm |

    I’ve had an experience today with some paper wasps. I’ve identified them as polistis humilis synoecus, and they are a real piece of work. Extremely aggressive and intelligent. I got stung once on my hand, which was basically the only part of my body that was uncovered. They definitely attack in numbers. According to some US research, other species have facial recognition too… So I’m trapped in my house now. They are extraordinarily resilient and take multiple blasts of mortein to bring down. My girlfriend was stung merely for walking past them.

    I have huge colonies of little brown paper wasps on my home, which I don’t mind at all. They keep to themselves.

    Bob, I have pics too if you would like me to pop them through. I live in Stafford, Queensland, if that helps anyone identify their range.

    • BobinOz January 14, 2016, 12:40 am |

      Ah, yes, I’ve had problems with those myself. Common name is native paper wasps, and they do attack in numbers, I know from experience. Check this out…

      There are a few photographs as well, including of the nests. Best way to get rid of them is to go out there at night when they are all asleep in that nest and destroy it rapidly. Fire works well, as in some sort of safe flamethrower, Bunnings will probably help you out with that.

      Anybody who has been stung by these things will realise that’s not cruel, but necessary, especially when you have kids playing in the garden.

  • suzie gunn December 14, 2015, 3:48 pm |

    Hi Bob…just thought i would share that i have found a couple of things that help if a wasp stings you and you DO NOT have an allergic reaction…(Epipen for those)…in W.A. we have a plant called Stinkweed which is from the mint family with very sticky resinous leaves that grows in late spring to late summer …so the time of year when wasps are around…if the bruised leaf is rubbed gently immediately on the sting it will take the pain from it….and if there is no Stinkweed available or time elapses before treatment is possible, i have found a Swedish Bitters poultice enormously helpful..(.the same also helped with a redback spider bite and a stingaree sting…)

    • BobinOz December 14, 2015, 7:56 pm |

      Thanks for the tips Suzie, very helpful. I googled Stinkweed and it’s in Victoria, south-eastern South Australia, south-western and western Western Australia and the sub-coastal districts of southern and central New South Wales. Less common in other parts of New South Wales and South Australia and present in Tasmania and south-eastern Queensland.


  • m.cridge April 2, 2015, 11:06 pm |

    after being stung several times over the years, I now have a severe allergic reaction to paper wasp, carry 2 EpiPen and if lucky might see the next day, as I don;t have the normal signs, swelling etc, it effects my heart as my blood pressure goes up. I have tried all sprays, ideas, advice etc. but I think I may have found a Pest Management service that has had good results in my garden . Kim Lawrence from Alpha Omega, it has allowed me to go in my garden again.

    • BobinOz April 3, 2015, 9:40 pm |

      Yes, I’ve got a friend here who is also allergic to wasp stings, he nearly died once. Luckily a neighbour drove him to hospital as he was gasping his last and they saved him just in time. I think he carries one of those EpiPen things around as well.

      At least you and my friend know you are allergic, if I’m not mistaken some people are walking around not knowing they are allergic and they are one sting away from finding out the hard way.

      Glad to hear you have found someone who has helped and that you can get into your garden again.

  • Elena June 17, 2014, 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, 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, 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.

  • Robert Holmes February 26, 2014, 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, 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, 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, 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.

  • Maurice Brown January 12, 2014, 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, 3:17 pm |

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


  • Jim December 29, 2013, 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, 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.

  • Dave December 19, 2013, 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, 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, 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, 10:35 pm |

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

  • Dave December 18, 2013, 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, 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

  • Rochelle from WA February 5, 2013, 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, 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!

  • BobinOz March 14, 2011, 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.

  • Gracie March 13, 2011, 10:29 pm |

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

  • BobinOz July 7, 2010, 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, 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, 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

  • Merl July 5, 2010, 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.

Leave a Comment

If your comment doesn’t get answered, find out why…..
FAQs and Comment Policy.