Yellow Jacket

Yellow Jacket

Yellow-Jacket
  • Common Name(s): Yellow Jacket
  • Order: Hymenoptera
  • Family: Vespidae
  • Common Species: Vespula maculifrons, Dolichovespula arenaria, Many other Vespula spp. and Dolichovespula spp.
  • Commonly Confused With: Other Wasps/Hornets

Characteristics

How to Identify?
There are many different species of yellow jackets in Georgia, but the two most common from each genus are the eastern yellowjacket (Vespula maculifrons) and the common aerial yellowjacket (Dolichovespula Arenaria). Both of these yellow jackets share similar traits: vibrant yellow and black coloration and a very tightly pinched waist (wasp waist). They range from 0.9-1.1 cm in size as workers (non-reproductive females), and are larger as males and queens (reproductive females).

Habitat

Where do they live?
The eastern yellow jacket usually resides in the ground or as close to ground level as possible. If not nesting directly in the ground, they can be found in tree holes, fallen logs, or stumps. They can sometimes mistakenly get into wall voids or other cracks or crevices on the home. Common aerial yellow jackets, as the name implies, live off the ground in nests similar to those of the bald-faced hornet, usually with the opening on the bottom instead of on the side.

Food Source

What do they eat?
The larval stages (juveniles) of these wasps usually feed on insect parts or meat scavenged and fed to them by adult workers. The adults can feed on insects, nectar, and sometimes even carrion.

Activity

What do they do?
These insects can be dangerous because of the locations in which they build their nests. If they are nesting in the ground and you accidentally come across their nest, they will sting in defense of the nest. They can be more aggressive than some of the other wasps and hornets and should be admired from a safe distance. Aerial nests can pose issues much like the ones customers face when dealing with the bald-faced hornet. If you are not allergic to the venom, a sting is not fatal but can be unpleasant and hurt for a couple of hours. If you do happen to disturb a nest, leave the area quickly and calmly (avoid flailing as it will be perceived as a threat and lead to even more stings). Avoid trying to wait them out by jumping into a body of water (such as a pool or lake); they won’t go away but will wait for you to come up for air and then proceed to sting you (possibly even to death).

Fun Fact

While the common name for these insects is “yellowjacket,” they are actually a type of social wasp, sharing a family with other hornets and wasps (vespidae).

Author: G. Wyatt West– B.S.E.S University of Georgia 2017; Board Certified Entomologist

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