|Yellow Jacket||Print | Home | Close Window|
|Yellowjacket or yellow-jacket is the common name in North America for predatory wasps of the genera Vespula and Dolichovespula. Members of these genera are known simply as
"wasps" in other English-speaking countries. Most of these are black-and-yellow; some are black-and-white (such as the bald-faced hornet, Dolichovespula maculata), while others may have the abdomen background color red instead of black. They can be identified by their distinctive markings, small size (similar to or slightly smaller or larger than a honey bee), their occurrence only in colonies, and a characteristic, rapid, side to side flight pattern prior to landing. They are often mistakenly called "bees". All females are capable of stinging. Yellowjackets are important predators of pest insects.
A typical yellowjacket worker is about 12 mm (0.5 inches) long, with alternating bands on the abdomen while the queen is larger, about 19 mm (0.75 inches) long (the different patterns on the abdomen help separate various species). Workers are sometimes confused with honey bees, especially when flying in and out of their nests. Yellowjackets, in contrast to honey bees, are not covered with tan-brown dense hair on their bodies and lack the flattened hairy hind legs used to carry pollen.
Yellowjackets have a lance-like stinger with small barbs and typically sting repeatedly, though occasionally the sting becomes lodged and pulls free of the wasp's body. All species have yellow or white on the face. Mouthparts are well-developed for capturing and chewing insects, with a proboscis for sucking nectar, fruit and other juices. Nests are built in trees, shrubs or in protected places such as inside human-made structures (attics, hollow walls or flooring, in sheds, under porches and eaves of houses), or in soil cavities, mouse burrows, etc. Nests are made from wood fiber chewed into a paper-like pulp.
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