10 Facts About Yellow Jackets

Ah, the infamous yellowjacket wasps. Most people fear these tiny insects for 2 primary reasons. First, it’s difficult to identify them at a first glance. Their size and coloring remind of the regular honeybee, which isn’t as aggressive or dangerous as the yellowjacket. Second, they are extremely aggressive and dangerous. Figures, right?

Today, we will discuss yellowjackets, highlighting 10 of the most interesting facts about this wasp species that tends to strike fear into everyone.

1. They Are Effective Pest Controllers

Yellowjackets are typically omnivorous, eating both animal protein and nectar, fruits, tree sap, and even human foods, provided that they’re sweet. However, this wasp’s diet is mainly carnivorous in the spring and early summer.

During this time, they will focus on animal protein, hunting and consuming prey such as bees, other wasps, flies, and caterpillars. The latter rank as pests, making yellowjackets beneficial to a caterpillar-infested environment. See? They’re not all bad.

2. Yellowjackets Have Sensitive Triggers

It’s very easy to make a yellowjacket feel threatened, which is why this insect is so feared and respected. Everything can set the yellowjacket off, including loud sounds and vibrations. Car engines, lawn mowers, music, and even loud human voices can send them into frenzy.

Seeing how a yellowjacket colony can hold between 1,500 and 15,000 members can spell disaster quickly. Especially seeing how yellowjackets are notoriously aggressive and love to swarm the intruders. The intruders are typically not too fond of the entire process.

3. Males (Drones) Come From Non-Fertilized Eggs

Fertilized eggs will always result in females, while non-fertilized eggs will give birth to males. This evolutionary trait allows yellowjackets to control their genders with incredible accuracy, depending on their social needs. If the colony requires more males, they will spawn more non-fertilized eggs since the queen can lay eggs whether or not it has mated with the males.

4. Varying Nest Sizes

There are between 30 to 40 species of yellowjackets, each with its own characteristics, population size, and behaviors. This wouldn’t have sounded like noteworthy news if it weren’t for the mind-blowing scale. Some species will build smaller nests with only several individuals. These are so small that you can hold them in your hand.

In other species, especially ones inhabiting warmer climates, the nest may reach a staggering 1.100 pounds or more. The latter may house thousands of individuals, which is, fortunately, unlikely to happen near human settlements.

5. Yellowjackets Can Kill

Unlike honeybees, yellowjackets don’t lose their stinger upon stinging. They are also very aggressive and may attack for prolonged periods of time. When you combine these 2 things, you get multiple stings from one wasp, resulting in more venom than you would get from a regular bee.

Now picture a scenario where an entire swarm attacks you near the nest and consider the yellowjacket’s relentless aggression, and you can imagine the consequences. It’s also worth mentioning that some people are more sensitive to insect venom, causing them to experience allergic reactions that can put their lives at risk.

If you’re experiencing symptoms associated with anaphylactic shock, seek medical attention immediately. You should also destroy all yellowjackets nests near your home to minimize the risk of getting stung.

6. Yellowjackets are Most Vulnerable At Night

Yellowjackets don’t do well with low environmental temperatures and can’t navigate too well during nighttime. This leads them to spend their nights inside their nest to keep each other warm and safe. This is a critical piece of information, knowing that yellowjackets tend to build their nests near human settlements.

That’s because yellowjackets will happily consume human food, especially sweets. Unfortunately, humans can’t coexist with yellowjackets in peace, especially since the latter are very territorial and aggressive; sooner or later, accidents will happen.

If you’ve discovered a dangerous yellowjacket nest on your property, you need to consider removing it. If the nest is small enough that you can handle it yourself, you better do it at night. That’s when all the wasps are home, vulnerable, allowing you to wipe the entire colony with minimal effort and risks.

7. The Potential for Huge Nests

Yellowjackets are quite prolific at setting large nests, sometimes consisting of thousands of members. Some of the largest yellowjacket nests ever discovered are thought to have exceeded 100,000 wasps.

Such a nest can only grow in the wild, relatively far from human settlements. Otherwise, human intervention makes it near impossible for yellowjackets to grow their population to such impressive proportions.

8. Other Insects Mimic Yellowjackets

Yellowjackets are so feared in the animal kingdom that other insect species will mimic their appearance to stay clear of danger. Their chameleonic abilities allow them to take on the appearance of a yellowjacket, informing potential predators to stay away.

It’s nature’s way of flattering this killer insect that has struck fear in the heart of the animal kingdom.

9. Hypersensitivity to the Yellowjacket Venom

Some people are already sensitive to the yellowjacket venom, causing them to experience complications when stung. In worst-case scenarios, they will experience symptoms of anaphylactic shock, in which case they require immediate attention. The situation may become even more serious in cases of swarm attacks, leading to dozens or hundreds of stings.

The problem is that you can also develop venom hypersensitivity over time. Some people become sensitive to the yellowjacket venom after one sting. This is the reason why yellowjackets are considered pests since their presence comes with more downsides than upsides.

10. You Need Professionals to Remove Nests

Yellowjackets are both aggressive and adaptable. They won’t necessarily attack randomly when they see you but will become aggressive when attempting to approach their nest. Yellowjackets can also release dangerous pheromones, leading to swarming behavior and more stings than you can handle.

The situation is even more dangerous when you have a lot of yellowjackets, possibly hundreds, forming larger nests. The risk of getting stung is greatly increased. At this point, relying on professionals to remove the nest is necessary to eliminate all risks.

This approach is that much more necessary if you have children, pets, or venom-sensitive family members nearby.

Conclusion

Yellowjackets rank as pests. They are aggressive, highly territorial, and can multiply fast, often building huge and prolific nests. I advise against testing them by handling their nests on your own.

Other than that, yellowjackets are fascinating creatures that you can’t help but admire.

Wasps   Updated: January 6, 2022
avatar Welcome to Insectic, a blog to learn about insects and bugs. I'm Richard, and I've created this website to share my experience, knowledge, and passion with others.

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