Yellowjackets: Photos & Facts

Have you ever been stung by a yellowjacket? Apparently everyone else in the world has but me. Since I started doing removals I’ve received several calls about removing yellowjackets. Well, I will take that back. I get calls for “bee removal” but the bees turn out to be yellowjackets. lol I generally just treat them like honeybees-I ignore them and they leave me alone. But stick with me here because I am going to teach you a few things about this flying insects people call “assholes with wings”.

The photos in this blog were taken from a removal we (my bee partner and I) recently did. I didn’t want to kill them! I am not pest control and don’t want to be. But when I thought about rehoming these things I couldn’t think of anywhere I could put them that would gurantee they wouldn’t be a detriment to the new location. Yellowjackets are opportunistic and if I put them near any beehives they could eat them, rob them, and steal their resources. Nobody I asked wanted them on their property…imagine that.

I figured the best thing I could do for this colony is document them. Maybe learn something and share that knowledge with others. I generally just treat them like honeybees. One flew into my soup yesterday and died immediately, it was weird. But also-now I know why!

Observations About Yellowjackets

You still may not like them after learning more about them but perhaps it could give us all a little more respect for them. I was very surpised when I saw this colony and I could recognize some of the things happening! The first thing I noticed is the comb was hexagonal shaped. I could even label the brood…worker and drone brood! And then I started Googling.

The above photo shows the hexagonal shape of the cells, capped and uncapped brood. The larvae is brown and dark colored because it is dead. The below photo is drone brood, or male yellowjackets.

Cool Facts About Yellowjackets

  • In the spring, the Yellow jacket queen collects wood fiber to make her nest. The nest is constructed of paper-like material made from chewed wood fibers mixed with saliva
  • Only a mated queen overwinters 
  • The nest is started by a single queen called the foundress
  • Yellowjackets are social insects that live in large colonies with a queen, workers, and drones
  • Workers have different tasks-just like honeybees
  • Workers, drones and the old queen all die at the onset of cold temperatures and newer queens seek places to overwinter 
  • Yellow jackets are carnivorous, primarily feeding on other insects like flies and bees. They also feed on picnic fare, fruits, carrion, and the nectar of flowers. Yellow jackets will forage for about 1 mile from their nest.
  • Most stings occur when the colony is disturbed. The objective is for the wasps to protect the nest site. Wasps are very protective of their colony and will attack if someone approaches within a few feet of the nest.
  • Drones have no stinger-just like a honeybee drone
  • Yellow jackets live in some pretty strange places. If you go into an outbuilding or shed, you might find yourself face to face with a lot of angry yellow jackets. This is because they get into these places and build their nests in old furniture, stacked materials, and other unexpected things.
  • Wasps and bees (and ants) are all cousins of one another
  • The queen will actually freeze for the entire winter and when she thaws out she will start her new colony
  • Yellowjacket stings can be deadly to those who are allergic to their venom
  • Yellowjackets can rob weak honeybee colonies
  • They can live in the ground, above ground, and even in buildings

If you can wait to kill the yellowjacket hive you have on your property you can wait until a hard freeze in winter. This will kill all of the yellowjackets. You can then remove the nest and take some of your own photos!