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Learning Centre

Yellowjacket Wasps

Introduction
Yellowjacket wasps often become a nuisance, especially from August through October, as they build up in large populations and scavenge for human food at picnics, restaurants patios, and other outdoor get-togethers. Many are attracted in large numbers to garbage cans and other trash receptacles. Others fly in and out of nests built around homes, buildings and areas where people live, and work, causing fear and alarm. Their boldness (sometimes aggressiveness) and painful stinging ability cause the most concern.

Description
A typical yellowjacket worker is about 1/2-inch long, short and blocky, with alternating black and yellow bands on the abdomen while the queen is larger, about 3/4-inch long. There are sometimes slight differences in the black and yellow patterns on the abdomen from one nest to another as various species of yellow jackets coexist in Ontario. Yellow jackets are often confused with paper wasps which are slightly more elongated and build much smaller colonies.

Habits and Life Cycle
Yellowjackets are social wasps living in colonies containing workers, queens and males. Colonies are annual with only fertile queens overwintering. Queens emerge during the warm days of late April or early May, select a nest site and build a small paper nest in which eggs are laid. By mid-June, the first adult workers emerge and assume the tasks of, care of the queen and larvae, and colony defense. The colony then expands rapidly reaching a maximum size of 1,000 to 3,000 workers in August and late September. At peak size, reproductive cells are built with new males and queens produced. After mating, males quickly die while fertilized queens find protected places to hibernate. Parent colony workers gradually die, as does the founding queen. Nests are not used again. In the spring, the cycle is repeated.

Pest Services and Control
A technician will come out to your house to do an inspection. Yellowjackets are controlled using sprays or dust depending on the situation. There is no preparation required on the part of the homeowner. If you have any questions please call your local 24 hour number or feel free to send us an email. We would be happy to help.

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