Southern Yellow Jackets

southern yellow jacketYellow Jackets can sometimes cause trouble at the 40 acre woods.  During dry times I have them invading the sinks and dog watering bowl looking for a drink. One or two is not a problem, but hundreds of them can make me a bit nervous.

Southern Yellow Jacket Colonies are founded in the spring by a single queen that mated the previous fall and overwintered as an adult, usually under the bark of a log.  Nests I have found are in the ground, but they could be in a tree.  Each nest is a series of horizontal combs completely surrounded by a paper envelope.  Initially, the solitary queen must not only construct the paper brood cells, but also forage for food, lay eggs, feed her progeny, and defend the next from intruders.  When the first offspring emerge as adults they assume all tasks except egg laying.  The queen devotes the remainder of her life to this task and does not leave the nest again.  For most of the season the colony consists of sterile worker females which are noticeably smaller than the queen.  Each worker tends to persist at a given task, such as nest building or feeding larvae, for a given day, but may change tasks if the need arises.  Working habits apparently are not associated with age as they are in the honeybee.  Workers progressively feed larvae a diet of masticated flesh of adult and immature insects, other arthropods, and fresh carrion.  Caterpillars are a favorite food.  In the fall, larger cells are constructed for the crop of new queens. Larvae in these cells receive more food than do those in normal cells.  You can see the larger and smaller cells in the video below.  At the same time, the queen begins to lay unfertilized or male eggs in either large or small cells. After emergence, the new queens mate and seek shelter for the winter. These will be the founders of next spring’s colonies.  The old queen dies, and the workers begin to behave erratically until social order breaks down.  With winter’s arrival, the remaining colony dies.

I have found that something in the 40 acre woods likes to eat yellow jacket larvae, and is willing to tear into a nest to get them.  Check out these videos below where I found two yellow jacket nest that have been dug out.  I have found several of these dug out nest in the past two years.

Yellow Jacket Nest: Yellow Jacket #1

Yellow Jacket Nest: Yellow Jacket #2

I get along with them as long as they get along with me at the 40 Acre Woods.

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