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Yellow Jacket Facts

Yellow Jacket Facts

Yellow jackets are part of the social wasp species. The broad name yellow jacket encompass several different species of wasps including: western (Vespula pensylvanica), eastern (Vespula maculifrons) and German (Vespula germanica).  They are one of the most aggressive wasps and tend to defend their nest vigorously.

Feeding Habits

  • Yellow jackets tend to forage for food and prey within a one-mile radius of their nest.
  • They feed on insects and other bees, as well as fruit, flowers, carrion and the nectar of flowers.

Colony Behavior

  • A single colony of yellow jacket wasps typically encompasses 2,000 to 4,000 infertile female workers to go along with the queen.
  • In late summer, thanks to the hatching of eggs into larvae and then pupae, they are joined by males and reproductive females.
  • A number of the reproductive females go on each season to become queens and survive through the winter to another spring, so as to start another yellow jacket colony.

Nesting Behavior

  • Each yellow jacket nest is started in the spring by a single queen known as the foundress.
  • Underground nests tend to be built by the western and eastern species of the yellow jacket, while German strands of the wasp prefer to anchor their nests in or around residents and businesses.
  • In some cases, yellow jacket nests can grow to a very large size. In one famous case, there was a nest that filled out the interior of a 1955 Chevrolet.

Yellow Jacket Sting

  • Unlike honey bees, yellow jacket wasps do not leave stingers embedded in humans when they sting.
  • On the other hand, a single yellow jacket can sting more than once, and it is a sensation that is relatively more painful than that of the honey bee sting.
  • In November of 2010, an 81-year-old woman in Florida accidentally disturbed a subterranean yellow jackets nest, which is when they tend to sting. Horrifically, she was stung more than 1,000 times before getting back into her house. Though she survived, the aggregate poison ingested into her system has negatively affected her liver and kidneys.



University of Washington – Yellow Jacket, Retrieved November 23, 2010 from

Fox News – “Woman, 81, Stung 1,000 Times by Wasps”, November 5, 2010, Retrieved November 23, 2010 from

“Yellowjackets and Other Social Wasp Management Guidelines–UC IPM.” UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Dec. 2010.


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