Eastern Yellow Jacket

Vespula maculifrons

E.R. Degginger

Eastern Yellow Jackets are probably the best-known wasps in Virginia, as well as the least-liked. This is most likely because yellow jackets are responsible for about one half of all insect stings.

Eastern Yellow Jackets are approximately 1/2 inch long. They have alternating black and yellow stripes and are not as hairy as bees. Their wings are a smoky color.

Yellow jackets build nests, usually in the ground or in old tree stumps near the ground. They sometimes build them in walls of buildings or similar places.

Copyright 2001, Troy Bartlett (http://troyb.com/photo/index.htm)

Eastern Yellow Jackets naturally choose meadows or the edges of forests to build their nests, but have increasingly chosen sites near people. People are often stung while trying to remove nests from wall cavities or from sheds, or while running over a nest with a lawnmower.

Yellow Jackets, like most wasps, can sting repeatedly, and will do so when threatened. The females are the only ones with stingers.

An Eastern Yellow Jacket colony can have up to 5,000 members, ruled over by a queen. Female workers will go out looking for food for the larvae (baby yellow jackets). Adult yellow jackets drink nectar from flowers, but the workers will kill other insects to feed to the larvae.

Once the female has captured and killed her prey, she will cut it into pieces and carry each piece back to the nest. Then she will chew the piece into a paste. The worker will next "tickle" the larva which will begin salivating (releasing saliva). The worker will drink the saliva, at the same time delivering the paste to the larva. This process is called "malaxation."

Yellow Jackets will sometimes collect moisture and nutrients from dead animals, such as the frog pictured below:

Mark Moran

Eastern Yellow Jackets build their nests using materials such as rotted wood fibers, dead stem fibers, and coccoon silk (from caterpillars). Sometimes they will include pieces of paper or string. They chew the materials into pulp and build layers of chambers on top of each other.

Eastern Yellow Jackets, despite their reputation, are very beneficial to people, since they kill many insect pests.

Additional Media

Description
Type
Credit
Eastern Yellow Jacket
Sound
Unknown
Yellow Jacket Coloring Page
Link to Printable Page
EnchantedLearning.com
Yellow Jacket's Head Under a Microscope #1
Link to Image
Uglybug.org
Yellow Jacket's Head Under a Microscope #2
Link to Image
Uglybug.org
Yellow Jacket's Head Under a Microscope #3
Link to Image
Uglybug.org

Relationships in Nature:

PREY/FOOD
PREDATORS
SHELTER
OTHER

Field Cricket

Bullfrog

Red Maple

Least Shrew SP

Honey Bee

Raccoon

Black Willow

American Holly Po

Black Carpenter Ant

Wood Frog

American Sycamore

Bull Thistle Po

Goldenrod

Least Shrew

Goldenrod Po

Bull Thistle

American Toad

Eastern Tent Caterpillar Moth SP

American Holly

Green Darner

Painted Lady SP

Differential Grasshopper

Goldenrod Spider

Chicory Po

Golden Northern Bumble Bee

Big Brown Bat

Chicory

Chinese Mantid

Great Crested Flycatcher

Striped Skunk

Black and Yellow Argiope

Carolina Chickadee

Eastern Mole

Spotted Salamander

Black Crappie

Southern Leopard Frog

Northern Mockingbird

Tufted Titmouse

Relationship to Humans:

Eastern Yellow Jackets, as mentioned above, are great pest controllers. Farmers and gardeners are especially appreciative of their presence. Yellow Jackets kill many of the greatest crop pests, as well as insects which harm ornamental plants. Yellow Jackets can be a problem, especially when they nest in, or near, your home. Some people, who are allergic to them, can even die if stung.

SCIENTIFIC CLASSIFICATION

KINGDOM
Animal
PHYLUM
Arthropod
CLASS
Insect
ORDER
Hymenoptera
FAMILY
Vespidae
GENUS
Vespula
SPECIES
Vespula maculifrons

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