Aerial Yellowjacket Nest and Why Yellowjackets are Considered Beneficial Insects

Aerial Yellowjacket nest ©Kim Smith 2014Aerial Yellow Jacket Nest

Recently at one of my landscape design project sites, which is located within a public space, a very distraught woman approached exclaiming that there was a wasp nest in a tree down the road aways. She was sure it needed to be destroyed, despite that it was at least 30 feet high up in the tree and not any where near where guests might wander. I calmly explained to her that the tree was not in my jurisdiction and even if it was, my first impulse would not be to destroy the nest. I thought it best to learn more about wasps in case there were more calls for its annihilation and after she left, I photographed the nest. I was glad she had pointed it out because it was so interesting to observe the rhythms of the comings and goings of the wasps, which after looking at the images through my camera’s lens, determined that it was the nest of the Aerial Yellowjacket (Dolichovespula arenaria).

Aerial Yellowjackets are often confused with honey bees (Apis mellifera) becasue of their similar color. In contrast, the body of the yellow and black striped wasp is less hairy and thinner than that of a honey bee’s, and yellowjackets do not transport pollen.

Side-by-side comparison of an Aerial Yellowjacket and honeybee:

600px-Gilles_Gonthier_-_Dolichovespula_arenaria_(by)

Aerial Jellowjacket

http://www.besplatne-slike.net Potpuno besplatne slike visokog kvaliteta.Honeybee with Pollen Sacs on Hind Legs

The native Aerial Yellowjacket is considered beneficial because it preys on many insect crop pests. It is also serves as food for a variety of animals including frogs, skunks, birds, and other insects (I can’t imagine eating a wasp!). Yellowjackets typically sting in defense of their colony and can also be a pest at picnics, especially in late summer and fall when they switch their diet from that of a protein-based diet rich of the meat of chewed up caterpillars and insects, to a sugar-based diet.

Aerial Yellowjackets ©Kim Smith 2014

The nest is is a papery-like material constructed from the worker yellowjacket’s chewed wood and saliva pulp and is typically only used for one year in our region. The Aerial Yellowjacket is so named because it builds its nest high up, as opposed to underground.

We left the nest alone, and so far, no more calls have gone out for its destruction.

Aerial Yellowjacket nest -2 ©Kim Smith 2014Honeybee and Aerial Yellowjacket photos courtesy wiki commons media.

5 comments

  • Braconid wasps swoop in every year and save the tomato crop in our garden. They lay their eggs in hornworms and the babies eat the tomato eaters from the inside out. So fascinating. We first noticed it a few years ago when we lost a tomato or two to the hornworms before we started finding the dead husks of hornworms hanging from the plants. I looked it up, and sure enough the wasps saved the day! And it happens every year. So cool!

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    • Thanks for sharing Chris and explaining so well. Several readers have written to ask about the hornworms, with the question “what is this monster worm doing eating my tomatoes?” Hornworms are not really worms at all, but the larval stage of the Tomato Hornworm Moth, which is a member of the Sphingidae or Sphinx Moth Family of Lepidoptera. Very interesting to observe the life cycle of both the wasp and hormworms.

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  • Excellent helpers and had lot’s of these up in days woods some hanging from the old summer cabins then and some from tree’s…There was a big nest by the new Lanesville school building in days woods…1960’s…Don’t think they have an elementary school anymore…Do not disturb these guys or if you could get swarmed very protective around nests – I know of other kids who found out the hard way…Thanks Ouch :-)Dave & Kim:-)

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