Yellow jackets are a common sight throughout the U.S. These wasps get their name from their black and yellow bodies, although there are a few other color variants. While these social wasps are important for controlling other pest insects, they are aggressive in the defense of their nest and they will sting. The bites are painful but usually harmless except to people who are allergic.
Yellow jackets are wasps about 5/8″ to 1″ in length. Most yellow jackets have a yellow and black body (Saxon wasp and Eastern yellow jacket), but some are black and white (bald-faced hornet) or red and black. All species of yellow jackets have white or yellow on the face.
Yellow jackets are often mistaken for other insects like honey bees, hornets, and paper wasps. Unlike honey bees, yellow jackets do not have tan hair on their bodies.
Yellow jackets are social wasps that live in colonies with up to thousands of wasps. These nests are usually built on the ground under a porch, in the cracks of a sidewalk, or near trees. Sometimes yellow jackets will build nests hanging from tree branches or in the corners of buildings.
Yellow jackets are pollinators and they eat pests like flies and beetles which makes them useful in most cases. These wasps are also scavengers and they will eat fish, meat, and sugary food. They often swarm around trash outdoors.
Yellow jackets have thick barbs that can be used to sting repeatedly, unlike a bee. It is possible for this stinger to become lodged and pull out of the wasp’s body, however. The venom of a yellow jacket is only dangerous to people who are allergic or stung very many times.
A yellow jacket colony begins when a queen builds a small nest and lays eggs. Once the eggs hatch, they are fed until they mature worker wasps. By autumn, a yellow jacket nest may have 1,000 or more individuals. Some large nests can reach up to 5,000 individuals, but some types of yellow jackets in the south can build perennial colonies with many queens and tens of thousands of workers. All worker wasps are sterile females and all are capable of stinging. Male wasps do not appear until the late summer, at which point they mate with females that become queens in the spring. Fertilized females hibernate through the winter while the males and female workers die in the cold.
Because yellow jackets are beneficial insects, pest control is typically reserved for cases in which they pose a risk to pets or people. At Pest Defense Solutions, our exterminator in El Paso will help you customize a treatment program that eliminates yellow jackets from your home. Contact us today if you have a yellow jacket nest on your property and you or someone else may be allergic.