The justly feared Yellow Jacket is a wasp with a sting so painful that when sighted, it literally sends people in the opposite direction.
Like many wasps, Yellow Jackets are yellow and black. An Eastern (V. maculifrons) and Western (V. pennsylvanica) species of Yellow Jacket exist but there are few variations between them beyond color pattern. Recognizing one quickly will reduce unwanted contact. They are a common sight throughout all of North America, especially in the summer where food is prepared and eaten outdoors. Yellow Jackets, particularly the females, are extremely aggressive and territorial. A single Yellow Jacket stings repeatedly so avoidance is the best policy. Its venom is more potent than honey bee venom and stings are very painful. If avoidance is not possible, refraining from swatting and swinging at a Yellow Jacket is recommended. This wasp is easily provoked to attack and defend itself and a nearby nest.
Yellow Jackets wasps are commonly found along the edges of forests and can make their hives closer to the ground than in the tree canopy like other wasps. Adult Yellow Jackets feed off of nectar while other adults pre-chew insects for easier consumption for wasp larvae. A pregnant female begins nest construction in the spring, bringing about the first generation of Yellow Jackets that year later in the spring. Females from this brood become hive workers and tend to the other young produced later. By autumn, or when cold weather begins, the males die off leaving only mated females to continue generations the following year.
Scientific Name: Vespula spp.
Bee, Ant, Wasp and Similar
Size (Adult; Length): 12mm to 16mm (0.47in to 0.62in)
Note: 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 as they are driven by environmental factors (such as climate change), available food supplies and mating patterns. Grayed-out selections indicate that the subject in question has not been reported in that particular territory. U.S. states and Canadian provinces / territories are clickable to their respective bug listings.
Ant, Bee, and Wasp Anatomy
Antennae: Ants and Bees both have a pair of antennae on the head that senses their surroundings.
Head: The head contains the insect's compound eyes, antennae, and mandibles.
Thorax: Contains various vital parts such as the aorta and nervous system.
Abdomen: Contains various organs including the heart, gut, venom glands, and anus.
Legs: Ants and Bees have three pairs of legs attached to the thorax (center-body section).
NOTE: Ants, Bees and Wasps are part of the Hymenoptera order because they share many similarities.