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W*H*Y Wednesday: the Southern Yellowjacket

Today's featured species is Vespula squamosa, known as the Southern Yellowjacket.

This yellowjacket has been a thorn (sting?) in the side of people who live in warmer climates, because its colonies can survive the winter and grow to become massive. Monster yellowjacket nests like this one in Florida and this one in Georgia (100,000 yellowjackets in the cab of a truck) are most likely built by V. squamosa.

Squamosa_Southern_YJ The Southern Yellowjacket can be distinguished from other yellowjackets in the southern U.S. by two long, yellow stripes on the thorax. Its stout body is about 5/8 inches long, which is larger than average for most yellowjackets. The Southern Yellowjacket queen is distinguished by an orange abdomen with very few black bands.

Southern Yellowjackets will scavenge for protein and are attracted to meats and sugary foods, and may be pests around trash cans and picnics. In warm climates, some Southern Yellowjacket colonies can overwinter, lasting longer than a year. This species is considered a social parasite to other yellowjackets, usually taking over Eastern Yellowjacket nests.

Southern Yellowjackets inhabit the southern and eastern U.S., as far north as PA and MI, and as far west as TX. Their "footprint" is shown in the highlighted portion of the map below:

Southern_yellowjacket 

Squamosa_Southern_YJ_nest_3 Southern Yellowjacket nests are likely to be found in urban and suburban areas, such as yards, parks and roadsides. Most nests are subterranean, but Southern Yellowjacket nests have been reported in aerial locations and house wall voids. Peak population usually ranges between 500 and 4000 workers. Entire colonies -- not just the queen -- can overwinter in warmer climates.

Colonies are typically large, so disturbing a nest can result in swarming. Since nests are usually found in urban and recreational areas, there is a greater risk of stings and surprise encounters.

 WHYTR_200dpi Good news if you have this species in your back yard: the new W*H*Y Trap for Wasps, Hornets & Yellowjackets from RESCUE! will catch Southern Yellowjackets!

January 28, 2009 in Entomology, Science, WHY Trap, Yellowjackets | Permalink

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