Yellowjacket Nest

This month Leonard and I were walking at Little Lavas near Modoc National Forest Road 56 (Modoc County CA) when we came across a underground nest dug up by some animal. The papery combs were scattered around the underground hive entrance.

This nest probably was built by yellowjackets belonging to the Vespula genus. Yellowjackets in this genus are social and form large underground nests that can contain up to 5,000 individuals and be as large as a soccer ball. (Underground nesting bumble bees are usually solitary or form small colonies while underground bees construct wax combs.) The yellowjacket nest is usually built in the abandoned burrow of a snake or small mammal. As the colony expands the yellowjackets enlarge the original burrow. The hive consists of multiple horizontal tiers of combs constructed from wood fibers chewed into a papery pulp.

Large animals including bears, raccoons, skunks, weasels and badgers, as well as smaller moles and shrews prey, on underground yellowjacket nests in our area and eat the larvae and nymphs. Wolverines and armadillos, which do not occur here, also include yellowjackets in their diet. Because of the way the nest was excavated and knowing the common wildlife near Little Lavas, we believe a skunk may be the culprit which destroyed this nest. Yellowjacket colonies are annual with only the queens overwintering. Since it was so late in the year, Leonard and I feel the intruder probably did not get much of a meal for its efforts.

More information about Vespula yellowjackets may be found in a previous post: “Western Yellowjacket” on 10-13-14.

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3 Responses to Yellowjacket Nest

  1. tonytomeo says:

    Those are NASTY! We get them occasionally at work. Those that are in areas of traffic must be killed. Traps are hung near trees that are infested with homopteran insects that attract them. We can not spray for the insects, but we can put traps out for yellow jackets.

  2. John Swanson says:

    We had quite an infestation of yellow jackets this year. Multiple nests were in mole tunnels but I never did find all their nests. Last spring must have been ideal for the queens. Cortisol Propionate 0.05% ointment base (propylene glycol, sorbitan sesquioleate, and white petroleum) was very effective for itching from the yellow jacket stings.

    • gingkochris says:

      In contrast to your “invasion” this year, we seemed to have fewer yellowjackets. We need to go botanizing again. Leonard and I had a delightful time with you both in Arizona.

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