Queen Yellow Jacket Identification and Her Dynasty!
If you are still wondering whether there is a yellow jacket queen and about its specialty, then you have landed on the right article. Here you can learn all you need to know about the yellow jacket queen; it’s painful sting and ways to get rid of it. The queen is regarded as the epicenter of a yellow jacket nest. The queen yellow jacket sting hard and can be very aggressive. It is not that difficult to recognize a queen from the other yellow jackets. If you observe closely, you can easily recognize it. Queens are larger than other yellow jackets. It would be the largest wasp you notice all throughout the year.
The first and foremost thing a queen does as soon as it emerges out in the spring season is to find a place to nest. You might often spot her flying around trying to find a perfect spot to build her nest. She might be looking for tiny holes in the ground, on the walls, under the windows sills, behind bushes, etc. As soon as it finds a place, it starts building the nest. The nest is made up of fine fibers of plants and yellow jacket saliva. It almost looks as if it is made of paper. In the beginning, the nest is as small as a golf ball. It is made of concentric paper-like layers. Some species of queens build nest underground while others build aerial nests.
In a yellow jacket nest, the queen is the only one that lays eggs and grows the colony. After building the nest, the queen will start laying eggs in different cells of the nest. Soon, the eggs begin to hatch, and the larvae emerge. The queens feed the larvae protein-rich foods like meat, fish, insects, etc. When these larvae grow and become adults, they form the first batch of yellow jacket workers. They will be female yellow jackets which are sterile. They take up the responsibility of watching over the rest, guarding it and feeding the larvae. The queen again continues to lay eggs. The workers begin foraging food for the queen and the larvae.
The Integral Part Of A Nest- Queen!
In a large colony of yellow jackets, the queen is the sole insect capable of reproducing and growing the colony. Hence, the queen is considered as the most integral part of a yellow jacket nest. Hence, the yellow jackets become very aggressive and sting hard if you even dare to come near the nest. They won’t allow anything to happen to their queen and larvae. The yellow jacket population grows, and they become the most active during the summer season.
How Does A Yellow Jacket Queen Look Like?
As already mentioned, yellow jacket queens are larger than the workers. But, in certain species, many other characteristics make a queen look different from the workers. The queen will be almost 0.64 centimeters (0.25 inches) longer than other yellow jacket workers. Queens reside in a different part of the nest. This difference in size is also observed in other insects like ants, honeybees, and other insects. The queen’s lower part of the abdomen is in a pointed shape when compared to the workers. The queen moves in a back and forth motion when it is trying to find a place to nest.
The yellow jacket workers are ready to reproduce and multiply when they are born. While, on the other hand, the queen is born with the reproductive parts in an off mode. But the queens will have higher amounts of a particular protein which helps them to survive the cold season and fly out of the nest when the next summer season seeps in. The reproductive physiology of the workers helps them to get their maternal instincts. They take care and feed the younger larvae. In short, they have the maternal instincts without being mothers themselves.
Fertilized Eggs- Sign Of A Queen’s Presence!
If you aim to find a queen inside the nest, then you will have to look for fertilized eggs. It is a sure shot sign that a queen is nearby. Fertilized eggs will hatch and grow up to be female wasps who become the workers. In a nest, there will always be at least a queen. This queen will choose the new queens from other female wasps. After choosing the next queen, the queen will transfer a special hormone to the new queen. Then this chosen queen will be given exclusive care, and they will start to grow differently and faster than the others. They need sugar in late summers to grow well. Thus, they become the new queens. By the mid-spring season, the queens stop reproducing and start raising the offspring.
Winter Season- The Hibernation Period!
Usually, all the worker yellow jackets naturally die off during the winter season. Only the queen survives the cold climate and comes out in the next season to build a new nest and a new colony. During winters, the queens try to find some narrow place which shelters them from the cold climate. The place is chosen in such a way that it not only protects them from the cold climate but also provides them enough moisture and offer safety from possible predators. Usually, they find solace in some cracks or holes in buildings, walls, attics, etc. They hide there and sleep through the winter.
Dangers To The Queens During Hibernation
The wasps do face many dangers during the hibernation, and hence, most of the queens get killed during this period. Even though they hide safely, still they might get discovered by other insects like spiders who feed on them and kill them. Another major cause of death is when winters turn warm. This causes the wasp to wake up early. They are then left with nothing to feed on and die due to starvation. In case, you stumble upon a sleeping queen during winters; there is no need to worry as it will most probably continue sleeping only.
After The Hibernation Period
The next life cycle of the wasps starts when the winter comes to an end, and the spring blooms up in full glory. When the spring starts, the climate turns warm, and this wakes up the sleeping queens who were able to withstand the winter safely. Now, all other workers would have been dead. So the queen is left alone to fly and find a new place to nest. They start getting the necessary materials and build a nest to lay eggs and start the new colony.
Know How To Kill Yellow Jacket Queen To Stop Them From Spreading!
Getting rid of the queen and killing it is very important as the queen is the only one who reproduces and builds up colonies of stinging wasps in your house or territory. A colony of wasps might contain as much as about five thousand worker yellow jackets. By the fall season, the nest will contain enough larvae to be grown up as fertile females and males. Now, both the females and males will leave the colony. Then they mate, and the males die off after mating. The females will now go in search of secluded places to spend their hibernation period. Even if their original nests remain safe after the winter season, the queen emerging after the hibernation will not use it again. They will build a new nest.
Even though the yellow jacket’s life cycle ends in winter with only the queens surviving the cold, exceptions can occur in case the place has a warmer climate. Places like Texas, Florida, etc. do not have a prolonged period of freezing climate. Hence, the nests do not perish. They keep on growing and can have more than one lakh workers. Such nests can be a real cause of concern and danger. Yellow jackets can grow their colonies in size as large as the back seat of an abandoned four-wheeler. It can also occupy larger spaces in abandoned attics, houses and walls.
What Do The Queens Feed On?
The yellow jacket queen’s menu varies according to the seasons. During early spring seasons, the queen mostly feeds on nectar. The adult worker yellow jackets fly from flower to flower and get nectar for the queen to feed on. Hence, during this season, the queens also contribute to the pollination of flowers just like the honey bees. Usually, the queen feeds on arachnids like spiders, larvae of other insects usually from Hymenoptera family, the nectar of flowers, insects, and fallen fruits.
Get To Know About The Stings Of Yellow Jackets
The wasps can sting you hard if they feel that their queen is in danger. They can get provoked even if you go near the nest and cause vibration of the nest by walking near it or playing games like football near it. The sting has got small sized two barbs at the tip. Each of the barbs has a specific function. The first barb will stabilize the prey or the victim. Meanwhile, the second barb injects the venom into the victim’s body and paralyzes them completely. Usually, the victims will be bees or small insects.
Identifying A Yellow Jacket Queen
Here are the steps to identify a yellow jacket queen:
- Check the season. During early spring seasons, any wasp you might notice will be the queen as only queens survive the cold season and emerge out in early spring. The new set of workers will only hatch in the later spring season.
- If you doubt a wasp to be queen, slowly approach it and take a closer look. The queen will be very much larger than the workers. In case you see many wasps together, and one of them is bigger than all others, then that is the queen!
- During the fall seasons, look for wasps in solitary. The queens usually leave their nest by the end of summer season. Hence, the insects remaining in the nest during fall season will not be queens. They are workers alone.
- During winter seasons, try looking for a dormant wasp. All the worker wasps will be dead by now. Hence, the only one remaining dormant in a secluded spot will be the queen.
How To Trap Yellow Jacket Queen? All Your Queries Answered!
The necessity of a yellow jacket queen trap and the need to kill them as soon as possible is because it helps to reduce the population of yellow jackets! One queen alone builds colonies of yellow jackets and spreads it near your office or home. Why take the risk? Killing a queen during spring can ensure that about five thousand yellow jacket workers won’t be produced during the next season. By the mid-summer season, the workers emerge out, and the queen remains in the nest to reproduce more eggs. The queen remains in the nest until the autumn, laying eggs and building the colony. Hence, it is always better to set a trap for the early spring season to prevent the formation of a large colony by autumn season.
Yellow Jackets Are Not Bees!
Often, yellow jackets are mistaken to be bees. Both of them look similar in size and shape. Both can sting if provoked. But still, yellow jackets are not bees. They are wasps and are more dangerous than the usual bees. They can sting hard multiple times and cause severe allergic reactions that can even turn out to be fatal.
Workers Kill Their Queens!
Yes! You have read it right! In some cases, the worker wasps itself kill the queens. The queens are the mothers of these wasps, and they are known to protect the queen fiercely. Still, there can be occasions when they turn against their queen. Researchers suggest that the workers might end up killing the queens so that they can give birth to their sons. Till now, it was a great puzzle why these workers would want to kill their queens. Here are some observations made regarding this puzzling matricide:
- In case there are large colonies of wasps with many siblings having the same father, the workers have been observed to kill the queens. But, if the colonies have mixed siblings, then the workers won’t kill the queen.
- One explanation made about this is that it is the only way the workers get to lay eggs and raise their offspring’s. Even though the workers are sterile and won’t involve in sexual relationships, still they can lay eggs of male larvae even while remaining a virgin. But, if the queen observes such eggs, it will eat it all up. The queen will also attack the workers who lay eggs.
- This might urge the workers to kill their queen so that they can lay eggs. When the queen gets killed, the workers lay eggs, and male larvae are born. In case all the males inside a nest are siblings, then the new males formed from eggs will be either sons or the nephews of workers. Hence, this improves the chances of the workers to transfer their genes to the coming generations.
- In case the queen dies and all the workers remaining in the nest are not related to each other closely, then the sons born out of the worker wasps will be distant relatives or sons. This won’t give a chance for the workers to pass on their genes to the coming generation. Hence, in such nests, the queens won’t get killed by the workers.
- We often consider the yellow jackets as social wasps who toil day and night for the benefit of the queen and to protect the nest. But in reality, it seems the works are shrewd and calculative. They can kill or protect the queen according to the circumstances.
- Workers also have a soul and are not robotic wasps who simply work for the benefit of the queen alone. They give up their reproductive ability when the circumstance demands it. But, they can also revolt when they observe a chance to reproduce and transfer their genes to the next generation.
- The workers born from colonies with great diversity in genetics and many half siblings possess a great variety of chemical profiles too. But, the workers in a colony of genetically similar wasps having the same father will have less chemical profile variation.
Don’t Waste Your Time Killing Queens In Spring!
It is better not to waste your precious time by killing queens in the spring season. The queens would already have set up a large colony of wasps, and hence, even if you manage to kill ninety percent of queens in spring, there will not be any reduction in the number of wasps in your area. The queens who can survive the cold winters will set up large colonies as soon as they emerge out after the winter. Hence, it is better to treat the nest as a whole or use baits to kill yellow jackets.