The Big Wasp Survey, a citizen science project involving thousands of volunteers throughout the UK, has yielded important genetic insights into the common wasp, reports a study led by UCL researchers.
Using data and samples of Vespula vulgaris (a species of yellowjacket wasp known as the Common Wasp) collected by amateur ‘citizen scientists’, the researchers conducted the first large-scale genetic analysis of the insect across its native range.
The insights, published in Insect Molecular Biology, revealed a single population of the wasp across Britain, while the insect’s genetics were more differentiated across the Irish Sea in Northern Ireland. The researchers say this demonstrates that the wasp is effective at dispersing itself widely, which may be one reason for its success in human-modified environments, both in its native range in Europe and as an invasive species in Asia and elsewhere.
Lead author Iona Cunningham-Eurich (UCL Centre for Biodiversity & Environment Research, UCL Biosciences, and the Natural History Museum), who began the research as an MSci student before beginning a PhD at UCL, said: “Vespula vulgaris is one of the most familiar wasps to most of us in the UK, as we very commonly see it in late summer. Despite the wasp being ubiquitous in Britain, a lot of research has been conducted outside of its native range, so this study is important in establishing a baseline of information about the common wasp’s ecology and dispersal behaviours at home. By finding a single, intermixing population across Britain, our findings add to evidence that the common wasp is very good at spreading across the landscape, which may be because the queens are able to fly great distances, either on their own steam, aided by the wind, or accidentally transported by people.”
Posted On: 22/08/2023