Overview

Brief Summary

Yellowjackets (Vespula spp., Dolichovespula spp.) are so named for their distinctive yellow and black markings. They are relatively hairless, with wings that are often a translucent golden-tan color. Yellowjackets are house fly-sized, ranging from 12-25 mm.

They are common worldwide, and are particularly abundant in the southeastern United States. Yellowjackets are carnivorous, primarily feeding on other insects like flies and bees, but also on fruits, picnic fare, carrion, and the nectar of some flowers.

  • Yellowjackets (University of Illinois Extension Service)
  • Controlling Bald-Faced Hornets and Yellowjackets In and Around Structures (S. B. Bambara and M. Waldvogel, North Carolina State University, North Carolina Cooperative Extension, December 29, 1999)
  • Yellow Jackets (North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension)
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Distribution

Yellowjackets occur worldwide. They are widely distributed in the northern hemisphere, and are especially common in the southeastern United States.

  • Yellowjackets (University of Illinois Extension Service)
  • Controlling Bald-Faced Hornets and Yellowjackets In and Around Structures (S. B. Bambara and M. Waldvogel, North Carolina State University, North Carolina Cooperative Extension, December 29, 1999)
  • Yellow Jackets (North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension)
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National Biological Information Infrastructure (NBII) at http://www.nbii.gov

Supplier: Bob Corrigan

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Ecology

Habitat

Nest locations include lawns, the base of trees or shrubs, and sometimes attics or wall voids of houses or storage buildings.

  • Yellowjackets (University of Illinois Extension Service)
  • Controlling Bald-Faced Hornets and Yellowjackets In and Around Structures (S. B. Bambara and M. Waldvogel, North Carolina State University, North Carolina Cooperative Extension, December 29, 1999)
  • Yellow Jackets (North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension)
Public Domain

National Biological Information Infrastructure (NBII) at http://www.nbii.gov

Supplier: Bob Corrigan

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Associations

Animal / associate
larva of Fannia canicularis is associated with nest of Vespula

Animal / associate
larva of Fannia scalaris is associated with nest of Vespula

Animal / parasitoid / endoparasitoid
solitary larva of Leopoldius brevirostris is endoparasitoid of adult of Vespula
Remarks: Other: uncertain

Animal / parasitoid / endoparasitoid
solitary larva of Leopoldius signatus is endoparasitoid of adult of Vespula
Remarks: Other: uncertain

Plant / pollenated
adult of Vespula pollenates or fertilises flower of Epipactis helleborine

Plant / pollenated
adult of Vespula pollenates or fertilises flower of Epipactis purpurata
Other: major host/prey

Plant / pollenated
adult of Vespula pollenates or fertilises flower of Epipactis leptochila
Remarks: Other: uncertain
Other: unusual host/prey

Plant / pollenated
adult of Vespula pollenates or fertilises flower of Epipactis atrorubens

Plant / pollenated
adult of Vespula pollenates or fertilises live flower of Epipogium aphyllum
Remarks: Other: uncertain

Foodplant / saprobe
fruitbody of Volvariella bombycina is saprobic on paper of nest (occupied) of Vespula
Other: unusual host/prey

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Life History and Behavior

Life Cycle

Yellowjackets are social wasps - this means that they live colonially in hives or in wasp communities. In contrast, solitary wasps build and live in individual nests rather than in a hive or with a colony of wasps. A queen emerges in the spring and begins constructing her nest of paper, often times underground. She lays a single egg in each cell; larvae hatch a few days later. After she has produced enough workers to take over nest-building and foraging, the queen remains inside to reproduce. A full-size nest exists in the fall, with between 600 and 800 workers. In the late summer, males and future queens are produced; they leave the nest to mate. After mating the male dies and future queens overwinter alone in protected places like under tree bark, in old stumps, and sometimes attics. Nests are not reused the following year.

  • Yellowjackets (University of Illinois Extension Service)
  • Controlling Bald-Faced Hornets and Yellowjackets In and Around Structures (S. B. Bambara and M. Waldvogel, North Carolina State University, North Carolina Cooperative Extension, December 29, 1999)
  • Yellow Jackets (North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension)
Public Domain

National Biological Information Infrastructure (NBII) at http://www.nbii.gov

Supplier: Bob Corrigan

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD) Stats
                                        
Specimen Records:388Public Records:94
Specimens with Sequences:362Public Species:9
Specimens with Barcodes:341Public BINs:9
Species:15         
Species With Barcodes:13         
          
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Source: Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD)

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Barcode data

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© Barcode of Life Data Systems

Source: Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD)

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Locations of barcode samples

Collection Sites: world map showing specimen collection locations for Vespula

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© Barcode of Life Data Systems

Source: Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD)

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Pollinator

Although not known for their pollination services - they lack pollen carrying structures such as pollen baskets and are relatively hairless - yellowjackets do indeed act as pollinators.

An interesting relationship exists between yellowjackets and the broad-leaved helleborine (Epipactis helleborine), an orchid native to Europe but introduced in the eastern United States. The yellowjacket lands on the labellum (the showy, lowest petal) and drinks nectar. While doing so, it bumps its head on the anther and pollen becomes glued to the yellowjacket's head. To prevent the yellowjacket from grooming itself and potentially causing the pollen to become dislodged, some of this plant's nectar is converted to ethanol. This causes the yellowjacket to become intoxicated and to behave sluggishly. While in this state, the yellowjacket is less likely to groom itself and thus leaves the pollen on its head. During its next floral visit, the yellowjacket inadvertently deposits pollen onto the flower, thereby pollinating it. Yellowjackets have also been known to nectar from, and likely pollinate, common rhododendron (Rhododendron ponticum), squash (Cucurbita spp.), common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), field garlic (Allium oleraceum), and field pussytoes (Antennaria neglecta).

  • The Buzz About Bees: Is It Or Isn't It A Bee?, Jim Cane, Agriculture in the Classroom, Utah State University Cooperative Extension
  • Pollination of invasive Rhododendrom ponticum (Ericaceae) in Ireland, Jane Catherine Stout, Apidologie, vol. 38, 2007, pp. 198-208
  • The quality of pollination by diurnal and nocturnal insects visiting common milkweed, Asclepias syriaca, O. Jennersten and D. H. Morse, American Midland Naturalist, vol. 125, 1991, pp. 18-28
  • What orchid serves alcohol?, Chelsea Vandaveer, killerplants.com, May 15, 2002
  • Generative Reproduction in Allium oleraceum, H. Astrom and C.A. Haeggstrom, Annals of Botany Fennici, vol. 41, February 27, 2004, pp. 1-14
  • Flower-Visiting Insects of Field Pussytoes, John Hilty, Insect Visitors of Illinois Wildflowers
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Wikipedia

Vespula

Vespula is a small genus of social wasps, widely distributed in the Northern Hemisphere. Along with members of their sister genus Dolichovespula, they are collectively known by the common name yellowjackets (or yellow-jackets) in North America. Vespula species have a shorter oculo-malar space (shown in the figure below) and a more pronounced tendency to nest underground than Dolichovespula.

Notable species[edit]

Figure showing oculo-malar space

List of Species[edit]

See also[edit]


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