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- updated 04/01/2008 -

Yellowjackets and Yellow Hornets

Yellowjacket is the common name for several different species of wasps. Yellowjackets and Hornets are in the taxonomic order or group "Hymenoptera". The literal translation of this Latin name means "married-wing," and refers to the tiny hooks (called hamuli) that couple the front and hind wings together.

The term yellowjacket refers to a number of different species of wasps in the genera Vespula and Dolichovespula (family Vespidae). Yellow Jackets are found throughout North America. Their nests are located in the ground or in rotting logs. The colony will reach maximum size in late summer. Worker yellow-jackets are common around picnic areas where they forage for food. Yellow Jackets are social wasps and live in colonies where they lay their eggs in combs of cells made of paper. Yellow Jackets benefit the woodland environment by killing insects that destroy plants and fruit!

E-Mail of Barbara H Parker:
These photos taken of a "yellow-jacket condo" as I called it as it was reconstructed over the base of a very old nest destroyed several years ago, A short times after I took the photos the nest collapsed to the ground as it was so heavy.You can see why the nest fell to the ground as the old dead base they used just would not hold the weight. For a time we had some angry yellow jackets!!

pictures taken by Barbara H Parker

click on thumbnails to enlarge the images

E-Mail of Michael Ellestadt:
unlike the bald-faced hornet the aerial yellow jacket makes a scale like pattern on the outer envelope instead of the tube like layered enevelope of the bald-faced hornet. Those aerial yellow jackets the I have seen them make large nests before in trees and on houses. The places where I find them at the most would be in the northern states and sometimes in Kentucky and very commonly in tennessee and even bald faced hornet is common down there. I once found a nest in ohio that had 10 combs but it fell apart and I had to throw it away. Heres another nice photo I shot of a nest I own. I like the aerial yellow jacket nests better because they are made out of strong paper while the subterranean species has a nest that is very brittle.

I know someone at where I work at that calls yellow jackets "garbage bees" because its true they do hang around garbage!!!

pictures taken by Michael Ellestadt
aerial yellow jacket nest aerial yellow jacket nest
click on thumbnails to enlarge the images
aerial yellow jacket nest aerial yellow jacket nest

Yellowjackets are attracted to and eat sweet foods - honey, candy, fruits, soft drinks, etc. For protein they hunt other insects and spiders. In addition, the common pest species collect red meats, chicken and fish - the same foods that people often bring to eat in the parks.

Yellowjackets are defensive, and never attack unprovoked. You may not intend to step near their nest or take away their hamburger on your plate, but they define what is their space and react predictably to intrusions. A colony that has been disturbed is much more likely to defend itself. It is possible to sit next to an undisturbed yellowjacket nest and observe them quietly without any problems.

How to avoid getting stung
It is always best to avoid unnecessary stings. Should a yellowjacket wasp fly near you or land on your body, never swing or strike at it or run rapidly away since quick movements often provoke attack and painful stings. When a wasp is near you, slowly raise your hands to protect your face remaining calm and stationary for a while and then move very slowly (avoid stepping on the ground nest), backing out through bushes or moving indoors to escape.

More tips

  • Don't go barefoot
  • Don't swat with your hands
  • Use lids on soft drinks
  • check food before you put it in your mouth
  • Avoid using things yellowjackets are attracted to: perfume and other scents, hairspray, suntan lotion, brightly colored clothes, sweets

If you are stung

  • Apply cold water or ice in a wet cloth
  • Lie down, when feeling not well
  • Lower the stung arm or leg
  • Do not take alcohol.

E-Mail of Michael Ellestadt:
"Well my mother called them "Pop can bees" because its true if left unattended yellow jackets will land on the edge of your soda can for drink so make sure you put one of those lids with the flip top so you won't get stung in the mouth. My brother once swallowed a yellow jacket when he went to take a drink of his Sprite lemon soda."

People who are highly allergic to yellowjacket venom may develop serious medical problems. If you have any of the following symptoms contact a doctor or a hospital to seek immediate emergency treatment: Hives, widespread swelling of limbs, painful joints, wheezing, shortness of breath, faintness, dizziness, vomiting, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, nasal discharge or stuffiness, tightening of the throat.

Yellow Hornets
Yellow Hornets (Vespa simillima Smith, 1868) are common in Asian Russia and adjacent territories and Japan. It is not the same species as the big hornet (Vespa mandarinia). The yellow-hornet makes greyball-shaped nests built on structures or in trees. Beekeeper don't like them, because when a yellow hornet approaches to the nest of the Japanese honeybee in the loft, the yellow hornet kills them one by one, hovering near the entrance in the air. But there are so many honeybees in the nest, it is not a big damage for them.

For the interested reader, special biological literature is required to offer a broader spectrum of knowledge about these wasps!

Credit for the above diagram goes to the U.S. Department of Agriculture

Credit for the above guide goes to the U.S. Department of Agriculture

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Hymenoptera>Vespoidea>Vespidae>Vespa crabro>Hornisse>Hornet>Frelon>Hoornaar>Vespa grande>Abejorro>Calabrone
Hymenoptera>Vespoidea>Vespidae>Vespa crabro>Hornisse>Hornet>Frelon>Hoornaar>Vespa grande>Abejorro>Calabrone

Dieter Kosmeier

Hymenoptera>Vespoidea>Vespidae>Vespa crabro>Hornisse>Hornet>Frelon>Hoornaar>Vespa grande>Abejorro>Calabrone
Hymenoptera>Vespoidea>Vespidae>Vespa crabro>Hornisse>Hornet>Frelon>Hoornaar>Vespa grande>Abejorro>Calabrone