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Yellow Jackets
The name yellowjacket refers to the typical yellow and black bands on the "tail" or abdomen of the wasp, however, some species, like the baldfaced hornet, are actually black and white.

Most species are smaller than paper wasps (1/2 to 3/4 inches) but are more stocky in appearance. The three Oklahoma species include the southern yellowjacket, eastern yellowjacket, and baldfaced hornet. They build nests much larger than paper wasps consisting of several combs surrounded by paper and resemble a paper mache ball. Most yellowjackets build nests underground, or in wall voids, attics, and hollow logs.

Polulations in mature colonies can be very large, ranging from 200 to 700 adults in baldfaced hornet colonies and 1000 to 5000 adults in southern and eastern yellowjacket colonies!

Due to the large colony size and defensive nature, yellow jackets are more aggressive than paper wasps.

Yellowjackets have effective means of defending their colonies. They often have "guards" at their nest entrances, and the colony can easily be disturbed by rapid movement and vibrations near the nest. For this reason, a human will almost certainly be stung if a lawn mower or trimmer is used near a yellowjacket nest.

An alarm chemical is released upon stinging that causes nestmates to join the attack. Social wasps don't lose their stinger after an attack, like honey bees, so can sting repeatedly.

Yellowjacket colonies usually last until late fall in Oklahoma, outlasting paper wasps, hence have more opportunity for unpleasant interaction with humans and thus have a nastier reputation than even paper wasps.

Yellowjackets, like paper wasps, usually prey on live insects, but also scavenge for protein and sugars at garbage cans and picnic sites and where fruit has fallen from trees. This scavenging habit, the aggressiveness of individual workers, and the huge peak population levels in fall make yellow jackets a serious stinging hazard around feeding sites as well as around their nest.

Webmaster's Note: Using a noisy, gas-powered weedeater to whack down high weeds around their ground burrow can bring out the whole clan, as I found out the hard way while working at the OU Duck Pond. By diving into the pond and swimming underwater a good distance I was able to escape with less than 100 stings... I'd rather face an underground colony of the 30 or more bumblebees any day than many hundreds of angry yellowjackets that are willing to pop out at a "moments notice"...

Controlling Yellowjacket nests
If you feel compelled to eliminate their nest, as with hornets and other wasps, find yellowjacket nests by day and deal with them at night or on a cool dawn, when they're more docile and lethargic (and when they're all at the nest!) By day, yellowjacket workers forage as much as a mile from their nest.

Seek professional help for large nests and nests in wall voids and attics.

Use protective clothing, such as a bee suit, and an aerosol generator with rapid knockdown insecticide.

Spray or pour insecicide directly into nest entrance and then plug the entrance with insecticide-soaked cotton.

Follow the General First Aid instructions on the Perilous Partners page for bites/stings.

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