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 ©www.InsectIdentification.org
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.