Super-sized yellowjacket nests
The news media in Southern Alabama and Georgia are having a difficult time keeping up with the big story of the summer: super-sized yellowjacket nests. Reports of huge nests are coming out of this area on an almost daily basis. The drama and fear associated with having hundreds of thousands of dangerous insects living on your property makes for good TV.
An intriguing detail is also where the yellowjacket colonies have taken up residence: the unusual locations include old barns, unoccupied houses, abandoned cars, a mattress, underneath a mobile home, etc.
Mobile, Alabama: "Giant nests perplex experts"... a summary of some recent large nest sightings.
Ft. Mitchell, Alabama: "Massive yellowjacket nest keeps woman afraid and indoors" ... a 30-foot long nest found attached to the underside of a mobile home contains an estimated 200,000 yellowjackets.
If you live near one of these massive yellowjacket nests, you are most likely being bothered by the workers as they're foraging for food. Using our RESCUE! yellowjacket trap won't wipe out the nest population, but it will catch the ones pestering you.
If, however, you are unfortunate enough to have discovered one of these monstrosities on your property, neither a trap nor a can of bug spray will do the trick. Definitely call a pest control operator. And if you want your 15 minutes of fame, call your local TV news crew. Looks like this story has legs... and wings.
H.O.U.S.: Hornets of Unusual Size
From unusually large stinging insect nests to unusually large stinging insects... Meet the Japanese giant hornet. Or not. I wouldn't want to. With a three-inch wingspan and a quarter-inch stinger, this is the world's largest wasp.
N.O.U.S.: Nests of Unusual Size
Unusually large yellowjacket nests are becoming more and more common in the Southeastern United States, judging from recent articles I've posted here in the past month. This article cites a couple nests of unusual size in Alabama: one as big as a Volkswagen beetle, and one that filled the interior of an abandoned 1955 Chevrolet parked in a barn. When nests get this big, they could contain over 100,000 yellowjackets.
The average yellowjacket nest contains between 1,000-3,000 workers. The colony is started and ruled over by a single queen, and dies out after the Fall. But building a nest as big as the ones in these stories, and feeding that many workers, is a lot of work for one female in one summer. So some entomologists are theorizing that the nests have multiple queens, and that the colonies are perennial, staying active for several years.
Our experts here at RESCUE! tell me that these are likely the Vespula squamosa species of yellowjackets, commonly known as the Southern yellowjacket. Good news for people in the Southeast: our RESCUE! Yellowjacket Trap will lure and catch this species.
Yellowjackets build waterfront condo
Perhaps it's not the largest yellowjacket nest ever discovered. But it's definitely one of the most interesting and creative. A couple living near Savannah, Georgia have found a massive yellowjacket nest rising up out of the water on their property. No one's gotten close enough to measure, but it looks to be about 6 feet tall by 3 feet wide.
To build their waterfront high-rise, the yellowjackets used chewed-up wood from a nearby fence.
Nest hunters in action
Since I referenced our hornet-herding and nest-gathering experience in the last blog entry, I found some photos we took last August 31 when our R&D crew unearthed a German yellowjacket nest near a horse barn. The underground nest was hidden behind a fence/wall, and the yellowjackets entered and exited the nest between the fenceposts.
Before doing this type of work, you must be properly suited up in a beekeeper suit. Even though the person is completely covered, we often use duct tape to seal the boots and gloves to the suit. An angry yellowjacket wanting to retaliate by stinging human flesh could find an opening there. Only after we're suited up do we use our special "Yellowjacket Extraction" device.
Here's one of the specimens...
The nest is pretty buried, so it takes some digging to get to it...
It's always fascinating to see how the nest is constructed...
Another one to add to our collection...
Herding hornets... and yellowjackets... and wasps
During this time of year, many of our R&D scientists are getting sunburns and racking up lots of miles on their cars' odometers. Vacations? Road trips? Hardly. This is the time they spend in the field, setting out traps with different attractants for testing and collecting insects to study in the lab. Yellowjackets, hornets and paper wasps are in demand right now as we work on different attractant formulations to create new products and make our existing ones better. If you have a nest, we want it!
Sounds like this guy is spending his summer days in a similar pursuit. Jim DiGiulio is running around Albany, Oregon catching yellowjackets, wasps and hornets just like our scientists are -- only he's collecting them to sell to labs where allergy shots are made. The labs use the venom to create a product which alleviates the allergic (anaphylactic) reaction after a person is stung.
Dangerous work indeed, but all in the name of helping protect people from these aggressive insects.