Authored by Rodney Southern in Nature and Wildlife
Published on 09-30-2009
The yellowjacket is one of the most irritating summer pests that ever existed. They are particularly troublesome because they are often invisible to us until we happen upon their nest. Once we have done this, the yellowjacket becomes much more than a pest. The yellowjackets will sting us in swarms, and can be very dangerous to a great many people. While the yellowjacket seems like a brainless insect hell bent on causing us pain, the truth is they are simply doing what we do – protecting their home.
The yellowjacket is actually a wasp, and not a bee. Many people do not realize that bees and wasps are not the same thing, and the yellowjacket is one reason why. Yellowjackets are true wasps, much like the ones that you see building nests under your eaves and awnings every summer. The yellowjacket is not as large as most wasps, but it makes up for it with temper. The yellowjacket will sting as a unit, and can do some serious damage to us. People that are allergic to the venom have even been known to die from yellowjacket stings.
The yellowjacket is usually about one inch long in size. They have tiny heads in comparison to most other wasps, but they use their mouths quite efficiently. These wasps also have all the parts necessary to chew up and eat various insects. One curious thing about the yellowjacket and wasps in general is their flying motion. The wasp tends to go side to side where as a regular bee is more direct. This is one way to tell the two apart at a glance. Another key feature is that the yellowjacket, and wasps overall have a very clear line between their hind part and front part. A bee will generally appear to have one uniform sized body.
A yellowjacket looks pretty much like a miniature wasp. They have a yellow and black ringed body and very clear markings. They are much smaller in appearance, but they are still easily recognizable from other species.
The yellowjacket is part of what is known as a colony, and this includes many other yellowjackets and a queen. The nest depends on the worker yellowjackets to go out and get food to bring back to the colony. A colony can grow to huge sizes if they are able to survive the cold season, but this is rare. Yellowjackets build their nests in the ground, in old trees, and anywhere else they can be that is protected.
Yellowjackets are highly aggressive, but they tend to settle down a bit at night. They will still attack, but they are much less inclined to do so after the sun goes down. During the day, the yellowjackets will attack with seemingly no provocation. Common ways to get stung include passing to closely on a lawnmower, and disturbing them while removing dead trees. Yellowjackets are not particular about who they attack.