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Southern Yellowjacket (Vespula squamosa)


Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the Southern Yellowjacket



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Image Credit: Paul T. from Tulsa, OK
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Image Credit: Chrysanthis B.F.
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Image Credit: Gary W. from West Chester, PA
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The large, aggressive Southern Yellowjacket dominates its own territory and takes over ones it likes better, even from people.



Updated: 07/13/2021; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
Notorious for its aggressive nature and tendency to sting, Southern Yellowjackets are best given wide berth and left alone. 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 like a backyard, park, trail, or building, 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 a short time. The queen focuses solely on laying eggs. Active during the summer, most Yellowjacket nests see a decline in numbers and activity by the Thanksgiving holiday when cooler weather sets in. All individuals in the nest die in winter except for the queen, who is inseminated before autumn is over in preparation for the next year. Some warmer areas of Florida see activity year round.




General Characteristics
Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers
Flying insect icon
Insect stinger icon
Striped or banded insect icon




Taxonomic Hierarchy
Species Breakdown
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Hymenoptera
        Family: Vespidae
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          Genus: Vespula
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            Species: squamosa
Identifying Information
Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Vespula squamosa
Category: Bee, Ant, Wasp and Similar
Size (Adult; Length): 9mm to 16mm (0.35" to 0.62")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: yellow, black
Descriptors: banded, striped, aggressive, stinging, dangerous, flying
Relative Size Comparison
Typical Size Between 9mm (0.4in) and 16mm (0.6in)
Lo: 9mm
Md: 12.5mm
Hi: 16mm
Territorial Map*
U.S., Canada, and Mexico
State of Alabama graphic
State of Arizona graphic
State of Arkansas graphic
State of California graphic
State of Colorado graphic
State of Delware graphic
State of Florida graphic
State of Georgia graphic
State of Idaho graphic
State of Illinois graphic
State of Indiana graphic
State of Iowa graphic
State of Kansas graphic
State of Kentucky graphic
State of Louisiana graphic
State of Maine graphic
State of Maryland graphic
State of Michigan graphic
State of Minnesota graphic
State of Mississippi graphic
State of Missouri graphic
State of Montana graphic
State of Nebraska graphic
State of Nevada graphic
State of New England graphic
State of New Jersey graphic
State of New Mexico graphic
State of New York graphic
State of North Carolina graphic
State of North Dakota graphic
State of Ohio graphic
State of Oklahoma graphic
State of Oregon graphic
State of Pennsylvania graphic
State of South Carolina graphic
State of South Dakota graphic
State of Tennessee graphic
State of Texas graphic
State of Utah graphic
State of Virginia graphic
State of Washington graphic
State of West Virginia graphic
State of Wisconsin graphic
State of Wyoming graphic
Canadian territory of Alberta graphic
Canadian territory of British Columbia graphic
Canadian territory of Manitoba graphic
Canadian territory of New Brunswick graphic
Canadian territory of Newfoundland and Labrador graphic
Canadian territory of Ontario graphic
Canadian territory of Quebec graphic
Canadian territory of Saskatchewan graphic
Territory map graphic of the country of Mexico
Contiguous United States shape map layer graphic
Alaska  
Hawaii  
Prince Edward Is.  
* MAP NOTES: The territorial heat map above showcases (in red) the states and territories of North America where the Southern Yellowjacket may be found (but is not limited to). This sort of data is useful when attempting to see concentrations of particular species across the continent as well as revealing possible migratory patterns over a species' given lifespan. Some insects are naturally confined by environment, weather, mating habits, food resources and the like while others see widespread expansion across most, or all, of North America. States/Territories shown above are a general indicator of areas inhabited by the Southern Yellowjacket. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.

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