Southern Yellowjacket (Vespula squamosa)
Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the Southern Yellowjacket.
Updated: 8/24/2017; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
The large, aggressive Southern Yellowjacket dominates its territory and takes over ones it likes better, even from humans.
Notorious for its aggressive nature and tendency to sting, Southern Yellowjackets are best given wide berth and left alone. Though they do not make honey, they guard nests with ferocity. They can, and do, sting multiple times without dying. Because nests are in or near the ground, stinging incidents commonly result from unknowingly stepping on or near nests. Alarm pheromones are sent through the air and nests are emptied in response to a perceived threat outside of it. If a nest or colony is found in areas where people pass (i.e. backyards, parks, trails, etc.), professional exterminators should be employed to remove them. Attempting to remove a Southern Yellowjacket nest without the proper protection and equipment could be quite painful for anyone in the vicinity.
One queen establishes a colony in the spring. She emerges from overwintering and either builds a burrow in the ground, moves into established hollows or building cracks, or she enters the nest of a weaker Yellowjacket species, killing its queen and commandeering the workers on her behalf. After feeding on insects and carrion, she lays eggs that will become workers for her. Nests are expanded by these workers using saliva and vegetation, and many combs are built into the colony in short time. Once workers handle the day-to-day tasks, the queen focuses solely on laying eggs. Active during the summer, most colonies see a decline in numbers and activity by Thanksgiving as the cooler weather sets in. All individuals in the colony die in winter except queens, which are inseminated before autumn is over in preparation for the next year. Some warmer areas of Florida see activity year round.