The wasp measures up to 18 millimetres long and has distinctive yellow and black colouring. Its abdomen is attached to the thorax by a thin column, dramatically increasing its ability to move in all directions and allowing the wasp to sting in all directions as well. It usually has a black anchor-shaped mark on its face.
It is common in most habitats in the countryside and can be found throughout Europe.
Wasps live in family groups comprising a large number of workers, a small number of males and the queen, who lays eggs ceaselessly. The family lives in a nest built out of chewed wood. It looks like greyish paper, is oval in form and can be as big as 30 centimetres in diameter. The nest contains one or a number of honeycombs with numerous cells where the larvae develop. The larvae feed on dead insects, while adults also feed on rotten fruit. Females hibernate in the winter and build a new nest in the spring. As opposed to the honeybee, the wasp is able to sting repeatedly.