Massachusetts Yellow Jacket Facts
Yellow Jacket Wasps are predatory wasps that can be found throughout the United States. Yellow Jacket are often mistaken for bees because of their yellow color but they are actually wasps. Like bees they are able to sting. Unlike bees, however, Yellow Jacket Wasps are able to sting repeatedly so many consider their stings more painful. Yellow Jackets are a type of social wasp that live in colonies. Each colony is made up of workers, queens and males. A Yellow Jacket Wasp colony is annual and only a queen that is waiting to lay eggs is able survive through the winter.
Yellow Jacket Queens that make it through the winter normally emerge when the weather first starts to get warm. A paper nest is built to house the queen’s eggs a start the colony. It won’t be until the mid-summer that fully grown male Yellow Jacket Wasps will begin expanding the nest and become a danger to anyone on your property. Finding the nests before they are too big is the best way to prevent a Yellow Jacket infestation from becoming a problem.
Care for Yellow Jacket Wasp Stings
If you are stung by a Yellow Jacket Wasp, it is best to ice the area in 10 minute intervals to reduce swelling. Seek medical attention if you have been stung several times or in sensitive areas. Some individuals may have an allergic reaction to the sting. If you are having a hard time breathing, get emergency medical help as soon as possible.
Yellow Jacket wasp stings can be painful. Wasps in charge of guarding the nest will sting anyone who gets too close to the entrance of their nest. It is important to keep children away from Yellow Jackets’ nests to prevent injury if the nest is disturbed in any way. It is best not to swat or squish a yellow jacket wasp as it can release a chemical alarm that will signal other yellow jacket wasps to the location.
Handling a Yellow Jacket Infestation
You may first notice yellow jacket wasps flying around your picnic food, trash cans or yard waste found on your property. Yellow Jackets are attracted to sugary drinks like soda and juice. They have been known to crawl right into your soda and beer cans so it is best to have an infestation removed before an outdoor party. Yellow Jackets are also attracted to bright patterns and sweet perfume and hairspray. You may have a yellow jacket infestation when you see large numbers of these insects coming in and out of a particular area of your house.
Yellow Jacket Wasp Identification
Yellow jacket wasp workers grow to be about ½-inch long. The queen is much larger, about ¾-inch long. They all have hard, shiny bodies with black and yellow striped patterns on their abdomens. The patterns can help distinguish the various yellow jacket wasp species. Yellow Jackets can often be identified by their strong mouthparts used for carrying food to and from the nest and their love of anything sweet.
Yellow Jackets prefer to nest in abandoned burrows or other protected cavities including wall voids and rotting tree trunks. Once a fertilized queen emerges in the late spring she builds a round nest using wood fiber mixed with her own saliva. The nest will almost appear to be made of paper but it is best not to get too close. Nests can be many different sizes, but are regularly about the size of a softball. It is important not to disturb a nest found on your property to avoid being chases by an angry swarm of the insects.
By end of a nest lifecycle by late summer and early fall, yellow jacket nests reach 4,000 to 5,000 adult members. The last generation consists of queens and males who leave the nest and mate. A newly fertilized queen will locate a safe place to overwinter while the old queen, drones and workers are killed by the colder weather.