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a genus of stinging hymenopterous insects of the family Vespidae (true wasps), belonging to the group of social wasps. The body reaches 3.5 cm in length, the females being larger than the males and the workers. The body is usualy brownish with yellow patterns or dressings; the wings are brownish yellow, and the thorax and abdomen are sometimes black. The insects build relatively large nests in the form of horizontally arranged honeycombs in hollow trees or abandoned burrows. Each nest contains up to 500 cells. As they build their honeycombs, the insects eat away at the bark of trunks and branches of various trees and shrubs, frequently causing them to dry out. They feed mainly on other insects, including honeybees; they also suck sap from tree wounds and nectar from flowers and eat fruits and berries.

Members of the genus carry dysentery and other infectious diseases. A sting from these wasps can be very dangerous, resulting in edema, fainting, and general asphyxia. The genus embraces approximately 20 species, which are distributed in Eurasia and North Africa. Eight of these are found in the USSR. Vespa crabro is found in the European section of the USSR and in Siberia, Vespa orientalis in the Transcaucasus and Central Asia, and several species, including the largest, Vespa mandarina, in the Far East.


Zhizn’ zhivotnykh, vol. 3, Moscow, 1969.