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Eastern Yellowjacket (Vespula maculifrons)

Detailing the identifying qualities of the Eastern Yellowjacket, including physical features and territorial reach.

 Updated: 7/31/2017; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ¬©

  Eastern Yellowjacket  
Picture of Eastern-Yellowjacket

Eastern Yellowjackets are members of an aggressive hornet family with painful stings and are best given wide berth if spotted.

Eastern Yellowjackets makes their nests in the ground. The opening looks like a burrow to a small rodent den and careless footsteps can result in a painful introduction. Approaching the entrance can elicit a stinging attack from its ultra-defensive inhabitants, which will persist until the threat (human or animal) has left the area. Eastern Yellowjackets have stingers loaded with venom and will continue to sting repeatedly. They do not lost their stinger and die like honeybees. Avoiding nests by mindfully walking through woodlands or sticking to trails is a good way to prevent an encounter with them. If a nest is near a home, finding one wandering near sweet beverages and food is not uncommon. They have been known to land on cans of juice or soda/pop and walk inside them to drink unbeknownst to the can's owner. People have been stung on the lip by them after taking a sip and startling the insect inside. Do not physically engage with even one Eastern Yellowjacket as it can send an alarm pheromone through the air that signals other Eastern Yellowjackets to join it in attacking. Swatting at them further agitates them, so walking away (or running if needed) is advised. Professional exterminators can help safely destroy a nest in a backyard. Insecticides designed for them may also be successful, but can be risky to use if they require close proximity for proper application.

Workers, males and queens of this species have subtle differences in appearance. Males lack the black spots on the abdomen and have more of a yellow/black banded appearance instead. Queens have small black spots that line the sides of the abdomen. A black diamond shape near the 'waist' is visible. Usually, only queens survive the winter, though there have been cases where others survive the season. Queens hold fertilized eggs inside until spring when they form a small nest and lay them. A queen will feed the first larvae chewed up bits of insects and caterpillars that she catches until these larvae become adults. These new adults will then care for any eggs and expansion needs so the queen can focus solely on laying more eggs and building up colony numbers. Adults drink nectar (and sweet beverages) and attack insects use as food for their young.

Eastern Yellowjacket Information

Category: Bee, Ant, Wasp and Similar
Common Name: Eastern Yellowjacket
Scientific Name: Vespula maculifrons

Taxonomy Hierarchy

 Arrow graphic Kingdom: Animalia
  Arrow graphic Phylum: Arthropoda
   Arrow graphic Class: Insecta
    Arrow graphic Order: Hemiptera
     Arrow graphic Family: Vespidae
      Arrow graphic Genus: Vespula
       Arrow graphic Species: maculifrons

Size, Identifying Tags and Territorial Reach

Size (Adult, Length): Size (Adult, Length): 8 mm to 18 mm (0.312 inches to 0.702 inches)
Identifying Colors: black, yellow
Additional Descriptors: flying, banded,

North American Territorial Reach (Though Not Limited To): Alabama; Arkansas; Connecticut; Delaware; Florida; Georgia; Illinois; Indiana; Iowa; Kansas; Kentucky; Louisiana; Maine; Maryland; Massachusetts; Michigan; Minnesota; Mississippi; Missouri; Nebraska;New Hampshire; New Jersey; New York; North Carolina; North Dakota; Ohio; Oklahoma; Pennsylvania; Rhode Island; South Carolina; South Dakota; Tennessee; Texas; Vermont; Virginia; West Virginia; Wisconsin; British Columbia; New Brunswick; Newfoundland and Labrador; Nova Scotia; Ontario; Prince Edward Island; Quebec; Mexico

A Note About Territorial Reach: Keep in mind that an insect's reach is not limited by lines drawn on a map and therefore species may appear in areas, regions and/or states beyond those listed above. Insects are driven by environmental factors, food supplies and mating patterns and do not nescessarily work within hard-and-fast territorial lines like we humans do.

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