Sunday, 3 November 2013

Eastern Yellowjacket

Animal of the Month

What's so special about it?

Eastern Yellowjacket; Image belongs to Duke University
The Eastern Yellowjacket (Vespula maculifrons) is a common North American wasp known for its large subterranean nests. These colonies often consist of up to 5000 wasps, but amazingly, they all start with just a single Queen. Only she has the fortitude and strength to survive the harsh Northern Hemisphere winters, and when spring begins to warm things up, she gets to work on creating her empire. Starting with just a few nesting cells in an underground cavity somewhere, she gives birth to a legion of sterile worker females who take over building and baby-raising duties. Once she has this thriving army and a vast home at her command, she produces the eggs that will hatch into future Queens and short-lived reproductive males. Rome wasn't built in a day, but these wasps can manage the equivalent of it in just a few months.

Where can I see one?

The eastern two-thirds of North America are home to this species, including southern parts of Canada. Yellowjackets build their nest in woodlands, fields, farms, parks and gardens so there's no need to stray too far out of any given city. It's best to just observe the individual workers as they sip nectar and fruit juices - getting too close to the main colony increases your chances of being stung!

Is there anything similar near Brisbane?

R. romandi nest; Photo by David Morwood
The European Wasp (Vespula germanica) is a close relative of the Yellowjacket that was accidentally introduced into Tasmania, but it has not spread into Queensland yet. Instead, we have our own native Paper Wasps, including a species named Ropalidia romandi, which makes large nests like the Yellowjacket. Instead of concealing them underground however, these wasps hide their colony high up in the branches of tall Eucalypts. More info can be found on this Queensland Naturalists' Club page.

Yellowjacket image © Duke University Entomology Department
Paper Wasp nest image © David Morwood, Queensland Naturalists' Club


  1. you do have to admire their diligence and communal cooperation.

  2. Impressive wasps and a good account of Christian

    1. Thanks Carole, yes I appreciated them better as I got to know more about them!

  3. I'm not sure I want to see one, flying towards me anyway. Fabulous and fascinating animals though!

  4. wonderful info in this post....just don't get stung!!!thanks for your comments on my blog

    1. Thanks! I've always been a little afraid of wasps actually, so learning about them helps!