Yellow Jacket Wasp
Back to Animals
Yellow Jackets 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 Yellow Jacket look like?
Yellow Jackets are yellow and black with stripes or bands on their abdomen. Workers are typically around ½ inch long. Like all insects yellow jackets have six legs and three major body parts: the head, thorax, and abdomen. They have four wings and two antennae as well.
Can Yellow Jackets Sting?
Yellow jackets have a stinger at the end of their abdomen. Unlike honey bees, a yellow jacket's stinger doesn't usually come out when stinging, allowing it to sting several times. As a result, disturbing a yellow jacket nest can be very dangerous! Some people are allergic to the venom in a yellow jacket sting and should seek medical help immediately.
Where do Yellow Jackets live?
Different species of yellow jackets are found throughout the world. In North America the European Yellow Jacket (German Wasp), the Eastern Yellow Jacket, and the Southern Yellow Jacket are very common. Yellow jackets 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 yellow jackets 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 yellow jackets. Nests are usually lived in for one season as the colony dies off in the winter.
What do Yellow Jackets Eat?
Yellow Jackets 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 Yellow Jackets
For more about insects:
- Many other insects mimic yellow jackets in color and pattern in order to scare off predators.
- There is a city in Colorado named Yellow Jacket.
- The Georgia Tech mascot is a Yellow Jacket named Buzz.
- Some huge nests have been thought to exceed 100,000 wasps.
- Don't swat at a yellow jacket. This will just increase your chance of being stung.
- The males and workers die over the winter. Only the queen lives through the winter.
Insects and Arachnids
Black Widow Spider
Yellow Jacket Wasp
Back to Bugs and Insects
Back to Animals for Kids