Yellow Jacket

The Yellow Jacket

The Earth is home to thousands of incredible living species. One such species is the Vespula Vulgaris or as commonly known, the Yellow Jacket! The yellow jacket species has been buzzing around for millions of years and although a nuisance to some, they are extremely beneficial to our environment. 


a yellow jacket on a flower

Yellow Jacket

Yellow jackets belong in the clan of wasps and more often so than not, people consider them as a member of the bees family. Yellow jackets are characterized with yellow and black markings with sharp, lance-like stingers which carry small barbs used to sting repeatedly. Female yellow jackets are larger with a 19 mm body size as against the males who are only 12 mm long.

The stings carry venom, like most wasps and bees, and are only harmful to those who are allergic to bee stings. Their mouths are created to facilitate the function of chewing other insects and also for sucking the nectar out of flowers. Unlike honey bees, yellow jackets do not possess tan, brown-ish hair all throughout the body, nor are they pollen-carriers or aided with hairy hind legs to carry them. 


Winters are the worst enemy for these species. Yellow jackets seek comfortable shelters as the winters approach like a garage shed, an attic space or any other heated space. Later days of springs and summer are the ideal conditions for yellow jackets to thrive and prosper. The warm summers give these buzzing insects the enthusiasm to go whizzing in search of food and sweet delicacies.

The German yellow jackets are notoriously famous for building their nests inside human houses. They prefer to nest in empty holes and spaces or unoccupied voids inside the interior of walls or on the outside of a building, which are left undisturbed. They make their entry through inconspicuous openings such as a tiny kink in your window sill or a small hole in your air ducts. Yellow jackets are known to be supremely annoying whilst living in your house. Be very careful not to anger them!


As summers bring out these insects from their nests, make sure to be very careful while tending to your garden or mowing the lawn or any such activity performed outdoors. Hailing from the family of wasps, yellow jackets are notoriously famous for their aggressive attack once their nests are attacked. Their defensive skills with constant stinging are extremely distressing for humans and the stings form red swelling over the skin which lasts for several days. Their presence in and around your home causes a constant fear and getting rid of these angry insects is the best solution to avoid those painful stings.

Always look for the nests during the daytime as you would find the ‘workers’ going in and out and it is also easy to spot their nests under the broad daylight. However, when treating these nests, nights are the most recommended timing as yellow jackets lack their vision during night-time. Pyrethrum aerosol spray is an effective method to remove the habitation of yellow jackets. Spraying the gas into the cavity openings of the nest immediately kills the yellow jackets as soon as they come in contact.

Life Cycle of Yellow Jackets

Yellow jackets are social beings much like us humans. They prefer to create colonies and families for their existence. The colonies of yellow jackets consist of workers, queens, and males. These colony members take an active part in the building and functioning of the nests. Once the males and queens have engaged in the breeding process, the fertilized queens retire into safe and warm spots in order to avoid the harsh winter. Queens participate in the activity of overwintering as yellow jackets, prefer sunny weathers rather than snowy winters.

After the winter season passes, the queens emerge from their hiding spots during the early days of summer or spring and look for a suitable nesting site to lay the eggs. Once the eggs hatch, the queen mother feeds her young larvae for a period of about 18 to 20 days. This process continues until she breathes her last in autumn and by that time the colony expands rapidly with around 4,000 to 5,000 yellow jacket wasps. Imagine what the number would have been number if the queens lived longer!

Purpose of Yellow Jackets in Ecosystem

You might have a negative perspective on all kinds of bugs and insects. However, you must agree that yellow jackets are one of the contributors to the well-being of our environment. They feed on nectar and small fruit-bearing flowers and are essential pollinators. Yellow jackets carry the pollen seeds from one plant to another, thereby fertilizing the plants in the process. They also feed on soft-bodied insects found on these flowers. This keeps them at bay from destroying the fruits and causing any harm to the plants. This makes them a desirable necessity for farmers, florists, and gardeners who require natural pollination.

Yellow jackets also act as exterminators to the bugs which inhabit our homes. Also, yellow jackets form an essential part of the food chain. Black bears consider these insects as one of their favorite means of prey. Small mammals such as badgers, moles, mongooses and such species also consume these insects and enjoy a hearty meal!

Yellow Jacket Facts

  • Despite gathering an infamous reputation, the Yellow Jacket has been selected as the mascot of Georgia Institute of Technology. They are one of the most reputed universities in the United States of America.
  • During summers, as they are building their nests, the diet is mostly carnivorous for yellow jackets. They require a necessary amount of protein to pass on to the larvae thus reducing the incidence of annoying garden pests such caterpillars and the like.
  • Yellow jackets are easily irritated even without any interference. There have been several reports which suggest that even the noises generated from lawn mowers or lumbering equipment have caused them to break out stinging. 
  • The peak of summers sees an increased inclination of these insects towards sugary elements such as flower nectar, sugary substances or even substances which are consumed by humans such as fruits and berries which are disposed of in the garbage.
  • Finally, the most interesting fact about these insects is that male and worker yellow jackets die over the winter. Only females live through this season.

Yellow jackets are quite the insect. If you are scared of these guys, you have good reason too, but just try not to interfere with them and you should be OK.