Yellow Jackets

Roger Whitehead rwhitehead at
Sun Oct 27 19:34:41 EST 1996

Here is part of Gene's emailed reply to me, which I post with his 

Yellow jackets are black and yellow striped wasps
which build nests in the ground.  They feed on both
plant and animal material.  They are colonial with
many infertile females as in bee's hives. Each nest
only lasts from spring to fall. Only fertile 
females overwinter to start a new nest the 
following year. Near the end of the season the 
workers seem to get more touchy about their nests
and as the colonies have built up to contain over
100 workers, they can be hard to deal with.

These wasps are related to the hornets of Europe, also belonging
to the family Vespidae.  Hornets are _Vespa_;  ground nesting
yellowjackets are _Vespula_.  Various species are involved.
_Vespula_  build 'paper' nests that are structurally identical
to those shown in cartoons where someone hits the ovoid
nest hanging in a tree and the wasps come swarming out, 
however these are completely beneath the ground with only
a hole with YJs emerging from it to mark their presence.  The 
aerial nest builders are in another genus _Dolichovespula_.  


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