Yellowjackets are a type of wasp. Many people mistake these small wasps for bees as they are similar in size and coloring to honey bees, but they are actually from the wasp family.
What does a yellowjacket look like?
Yellowjackets are yellow and black with stripes or bands on their abdomen. Workers are typically around ½ inch long. Like all insects yellowjackets have six legs and three major body parts: the head, thorax, and abdomen. They have four wings and two antennae as well.
Can yellowjackets sting?
Yellowjackets have a stinger at the end of their abdomen. Unlike honey bees, a yellowjacket's stinger doesn't usually come out when stinging, allowing it to sting several times. As a result, disturbing a yellowjacket nest can be very dangerous! Some people are allergic to the venom in a yellowjacket sting and should seek medical help immediately.
Where do yellowjackets live?
Different species of yellowjackets are found throughout the world. In North America the European Yellowjacket (German Wasp), the Eastern Yellowjacket, and the Southern Yellowjacket are very common. Yellowjackets live in hives or nests of large colonies. Depending on the species, nests will either be underground or in somewhat protected areas like a hollowed out tree or an attic in a building. They build their nests in layers of six-sided cells out of wood they have chewed up into a pulp. When dry, this pulp becomes a paper-like substance.
A colony of yellowjackets is made up of workers and the queen. The queen stays in the nest and lays eggs. The worker's job is to protect the queen, build the nest, and retrieve food for the queen and larvae. Nests grow over time to around the size of a soccer ball and can house 4,000 to 5,000 yellowjackets. Nests are usually lived in for one season as the colony dies off in the winter.
Southern Yellowjacket Source: Insects Unlocked
What do Yellowjackets Eat?
Yellowjackets primarily eat fruit and plant nectar. They have a proboscis (sort of like a straw) that they can use to suck juices from fruit and other plants. They are attracted to human food as well such as sweet drinks, candy, and juices. Sometimes they will eat other insects or try to steal honey from honey bees.
Fun Facts About Yellowjackets
Many other insects mimic yellowjackets in color and pattern in order to scare off predators.
There is a city in Colorado named Yellowjacket.
The Georgia Tech mascot is a yellowjacket named Buzz.
Some huge nests have been thought to exceed 100,000 wasps.
Don't swat at a yellowjacket. This will just increase your chance of being stung.
The males and workers die over the winter. Only the queen lives through the winter.