Yellowjackets are predatory wasps. They hunt insects and scavenge for food. Although other species are native to Ohio, the German yellowjacket has become the dominant species since it first appeared in 1975. Yellowjackets can nest around houses and in attics but one shouldn’t worry about structural damage. Their danger is their sting, which is painful and can cause allergic reactions. From August to October yellowjackets begin to show up around people especially at cookouts as they are scavenging for sweets as opposed to the proteins they hunted earlier in the summer.
Yellowjackets can be identified by the yellow and black stripes around their abdomen. Adults are about half an inch in length. The queen is noticeably larger, about three fourths of an inch.
Yellowjackets are social insects. They live in colonies that can reach up to 5,000 workers when thriving. The nests are usually built in abandoned animal burrows, rotting trees, or in the voids of wood structures. Adults capture and condition insects and other forms of protein to feed to the larvae back in the nest. When winter sets in the queen, workers and drones die. Before they die they mate, leaving new queens behind to seek protection over the winter.
Unlike honeybees, yellowjackets can sting more than just once. When they are near the nest, they are far more likely to do so, as stinging is mainly used to protect their colony. Make sure windows and screens are secure, keep trashcans closed, and keep food covered at cookouts to avoid attracting yellowjackets.