Dolichovespula saxonica, the saxon wasp, is a species of eusocial wasp from Europe which since the 1970s has colonised Britain, mainly in the south and east, but has been recorded as far north as East Lothian, Scotland.
This species measures 11–17 mm in length. It is often more black than yellow, with irregular black stripes on the face.
Behaviour and ecology
The colonies are usually quite small, normally contstructed hanging from a branch, but frequently in sheds, outbuildings or roof spaces.
In this species the queens may mate once or several times. in colonies where the queens are promiscuous the workers will commonly kill the grubs which are hatched from eggs laid by co-workers but this is less common where the queen mates once.This phenomenon is known as worker policing.
In Plettenberg, Germany, a nest of this species was observed to have been attacked by the parasitic D. adulterina. The nest consisted of only 3 combs. The upper one which was constructed prior to the attack and ws made up of small cells. The middle comb had been fabricated while the parasitic wasps were attacking the bike and at consisted of large cells, from which parasitic wasp females were hatching, on the outside there were small cells, where male cuckoo wasps were hatching. The lower comb was abnormal and consisted of small cells which were probably fabricated after the original female parasitic wasp had died, and following the departure of the first generation of male and female parasitic wasps. The small cells throughout the nest contained parthenogenic male D. saxonica wasp grubs which had hatched from the original queen's eggs.
The range of this species covers Western Europe and Scandinavia; it has been recorded from Austria, Sweden, Finland, United Kingdom, Czech Republic, Germany, Belgium, France, Luxembourg, Slovenia, Denmark, Hungary, Russia, Netherlands, Italy, Norway, Croatia, Estonia, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein.
The colonisation of Britain by D. saxonica and the related D. media has been attributed to human agency, although wasp and bee queens have been observed actively crossing large bodies of water. The fact that both species are continuing to expand their range in Britain suggests that climate change may be a factor.
- Donovan P. J & Read P. E. C. 1987, Attempted Biological Control of Social Wasps Vespula spp. (Hymenoptera, Vespidae) with Sphecophaga vesparum (Curtis) (Hymenoptera: Ichnuemonidae) in New Zealand, New Zealand J Zool. 14 329-335