Arthropoda: Insecta: Hymenoptera: Vespidae: Vespula maculifrons [return to Home Page]

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Scientific name: Arthropoda: Insecta: Hymenoptera: Vespidae: Vespula maculifrons
Common Name: Eastern Yellowjacket

Country: USA
State/District: DC
County: n/a
Date: 17 September 2001

Photographer: E. M. Barrows

Identifier: E. M. Barrows
Collector: not applicable
Location: Glover-Archbold Park
Keywords: A black insect FEar Glover-Archbold Park ROCR sting yellow insect
Additional Information:

Yellowjackets as Beneficial Organisms

Yellowjackets are beneficial animals that aerate soil, are food for other organisms, and consume many other insects by predation.   These wasps (which are not bees) are social insects.   Each mature, healthy colony, has a queen and many workers.   A colony produces males which mate with new queens that overwinter.   All colony members except for new queens die during the cold season.

I have led field trips for 40 years, and no student was stung by an insect, except in 2001.   Before running an experiment on ecological competition in forests, some of the students in my Forest Ecology course (2001), discovered a nest of Eastern Yellowjackets the hard way.   The students walked too near the nest of the feisty Yellowjackets which reacted with defensive stinging.   These photos show stings on four of the students.   They bravely continued with our class work after allowing me to document their reactions to the stings for others.

How Does One Avoid Yellowjacket Stings?

These wasps rarely sting a person, unless the person wittingly or unwittingly threatens their nests.   Yellowjackets generally sting in self-defense.   When you hike in areas where yellowjackets live, please be alert.   Scan the area for active nests.   Some species of yellowjackets have aerial nests attached to buildings, tree limbs or both.   Other species nest in the ground.   Stay as far away from these nests as possible, at least 20 feet.   If you inadvertently come too close to a nest, and a yellowjacket(s) stings you, you must decide how fast you will move away from the area.   If there are other yellowjackets buzzing around you, you may wish to leave as fast as you can.   From the standpoint of being stung, it can be dangerous to enter an area where a person or other intruder has disturbed a nest and yellowjackets are flying about.


The above information includes suggestions on how to avoid yellowjacket stings.   I assume no responsibility for any stings that you might obtain, even if you follow the above hints.


Barrows, E. M.   1986.   A hornet, paper wasps, and yellowjackets (Hymenoptera: Vespidae) in suburban habitats of the Washington, D.C., Area.   Proceedings of the Entomological Society of Washington   88: 237–243.

Barrows, E. M., S. S. Wolf, & D. M. Lynch.   1994.   Diflubenzuron effect on yellowjacket (Hymenoptera: Vespidae) worker numbers in a central Appalachian broadleaf forest.   Journal of Economic Entomology 87: 1488–1493.

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