Social Wasps: Yellow Jacket Wasps
Yellow Jackets Wasps
The Yellow Jacket Wasp family belongs to the Social Wasp category.
Social Wasps have the typical “wasp” body type: a very distinct head with chewing mouthparts, short-elbowed antennae, and large compound eyes. The thorax and abdomen are brightly marked with yellow, red, or brown on a black background. The wasps have four clear or smoky brown wings. They have a short, narrow attachment between the thorax and the abdomen. The abdomen is spindle-shaped and tipped with a long stinger.
Yellow jackets are usually marked with bright yellow and black patterns, appear hairless, and are about 3/8 to 5/8-inch long.
Social wasps have large nests containing three types of individuals, or castes: queens, workers, and males. The males and queens are produced in the colony in late summer. They mate, and fertilized queen overwinters in a protected site. In spring, she seeks an appropriate nesting site in which she builds a paper nest using chewed up wood fibers. Eggs are laid in the cells of the nest, and the young larvae are fed bits of chewed up meat and insect parts by the queen and later by the workers.
Yellow jackets build their flat paper nests in stacks, which are surrounded by a paper envelope. They usually build their nests below ground and in other protected locations. Social wasps use their nests only one season.
Unlike bees, these wasps aggressively defend their nests and can inflict multiple stings. They produce very large colonies with some yellow jacket nests containing as many as 30,000 individuals. These insects are considered to be beneficial because they feed their young a wide variety of insects. They become a nuisance, however, when they build nests in or near structures; scavenge for food in recreational areas and in other places frequented by humans; and seek overwintering sites in structures.