Diet: Yellow jackets are carnivorous, primarily feeding on other insects like flies and bees. They also feed on picnic fare, fruits, carrion, and the nectar of flowers. Yellow jackets will forage for about 1 mile from their nest. Note: Honey bees harvest nectar carbohydrates and pollen protein from flowers and are not attracted to meats.
Behavior: Yellow jackets are social insects that live in large colonies. The queen, drones and worker all have specific tasks to help support the colony. The queen lays hundreds of eggs. The male drones' main function is to be ready to fertilize a receptive queen. Workers do all the different tasks needed to operate and maintain the nest. Other insects exhibit mimicry of yellow jackets.
The color mimics look similar to the aggressive yellow jacket in order to avoid predation. All social wasps are capable of producing a painful sting, but none leave the stinger embedded in the skin, as do honey bee workers. Most stings occur when the colony is disturbed.
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The objective is for the wasps to protect the nest site. Wasps are very protective of their colony and will attack if someone approaches within a few feet of the nest. When a bee or wasp stings, it injects a venomous fluid under the skin of the victim.
Yellow jackets have a smooth stinger, so they can sting more than once and the sting can be very painful.
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Usually only the queen, who has antifreeze-like compounds in her blood, survives. But when a region has a mild winter and an abundant food supply — anything that offers sugar and carbohydrates, such as tree sap, aphids and other insects — the workers tend to survive, and continue operating in the nest. Over time, that nest gets bigger and bigger.
These super nests, also called perennial nests, that last more than one year can reach enormous sizes and often involve multiple queens. However, it's unclear if the queens are related to one another or whether they're strangers that decided to become neighbors, Ray told Live Science.
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The largest nest he's laid eyes on took up the interior of a Chevy, Ray said. And these super nests aren't popping up only in Alabama. There are also reports of them in California. Ray and his Golden State colleagues plan to put together a proposal for a grant so they can study these nests more, he said. There is one silver lining: Yellow jackets that live in these gigantic nests tend to be less aggressive than is typical, Ray told Live Science.
Most of these are black and yellow like the eastern yellowjacket Vespula maculifrons and the aerial yellowjacket Dolichovespula arenaria ; some are black and white like the bald-faced hornet , Dolichovespula maculata.
Others may have the abdomen background color red instead of black. They can be identified by their distinctive markings, their occurrence only in colonies, and a characteristic, rapid, side-to-side flight pattern prior to landing. All females are capable of stinging. Yellowjackets are important predators of pest insects.
Yellowjackets may be confused with other wasps, such as hornets and paper wasps such as Polistes dominula. Yellowjackets are sometimes mistakenly called " bees " as in "meat bees" , given that they are similar in size and general coloration to honey bees , but yellowjackets are actually wasps.
In contrast to honey bees, yellowjackets have yellow or white markings, are not covered with tan-brown dense hair on their bodies, do not carry pollen, and do not have the flattened, hairy hind legs used to carry it. Yellowjackets have lance-like stingers with small barbs, and typically sting repeatedly,  though occasionally a stinger becomes lodged and pulls free of the wasp's body; the venom , like most bee and wasp venoms, is primarily only dangerous to humans who are allergic or are stung many times.
All species have yellow or white on their faces. Their mouthparts are well-developed with strong mandibles for capturing and chewing insects, with probosces for sucking nectar, fruit, and other juices. Yellowjackets build nests in trees, shrubs, or in protected places such as inside man-made structures, or in soil cavities, tree stumps, mouse burrows, etc. They build them from wood fiber they chew into a paper-like pulp.
Yellowjackets' closest relatives, the hornets , closely resemble them, but have larger heads, seen especially in the large distance from the eyes to the back of the head. Yellowjackets are social hunters living in colonies containing workers, queens, and males drones. Colonies are annual with only inseminated queens overwintering.
Fertilized queens are found in protected places such as in hollow logs, in stumps, under bark, in leaf litter, in soil cavities, and in man-made structures.
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Queens emerge during the warm days of late spring or early summer, select a nest site, and build a small paper nest in which they lay eggs. Larvae pupate , then emerge later as small, infertile females called workers. Workers in the colony take over caring for the larvae, feeding them with chewed up meat or fruit. By midsummer, the first adult workers emerge and assume the tasks of nest expansion, foraging for food, care of the queen and larvae, and colony defense. From this time until her death in the autumn, the queen remains inside the nest, laying eggs.
The colony then expands rapidly, reaching a maximum size of to  workers and a nest of 10, to 15, cells in late summer. This is true of most species in most areas; however, V. At peak size, reproductive cells are built with new males and queens produced.
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