Tuesday, January 4, 2011

ABC Wednesday: Y is for Yellowjacket

Yellowjackets is the North American name for a number of wasp species, this one is a Common Wasp. The species is native to Europe and has been introduced to Australia and New Zealand, where it is an invasive species.

They nest in abandoned mice holes or in cavities above the earth and build nests out of wood pulp. If you have a wood stack or even wooden furniture, the chances of seeing wasps chewing off bits to build their nests from it during the spring are pretty good. One nest can house up to 10,000 wasps, one queen and her workers. In late summer, new queens are hatched who will overwinter and start new colonies in the next spring. The rest of the colony dies.
This wasp had caught a fly and was eating it. The adults feed on fruit and nectar, but the larvae are fed almost exclusively insects or even meat. My family has a tradition of leaving the leftovers from a barbecue out for a while so that the wasps can come and take their fill. If you don't slap at them, Common Wasps are not aggressive at all. If you watch one leaving a good food source, you'll notice it flying in circles a few times. They do that to memorize the location of the food so that they can return later.
Sometimes, a wasp isn't a wasp at all. There are many species of hoverflies who imitate wasps (or bees). You can tell the difference by the eyes and hoverflies don't have the waist that wasps or bees have. Also, hoverflies, well, hover - the males do it on clearings and meadows to impress the females (look how bold and strong I am, to fly here right in the open where predators can see me). Try throwing a little pebble a few inches from a hovering fly, it will immediately try to attack the stone because it thinks it's a rival male. The one in the photo above is of the species Helophilus trivittatus.
Syrphus ribesii
Episyrphus balteatus, also called Marmelade hoverfly

What else does Y stand for? Find out with ABC Wednesday


Sylvia K said...

Such an interesting post as always, Jennifer! Love your photos! I've seen lots of Yellow Jackets, but never this close! Super choice for the Y Day! Hope your week is going well!


photowannabe said...

Fascinating information. When we first moved to our house we had a group of very aggressive wasps in our tile roof. Unfortunately we had to call the exterminator to get them out. They liked our home as much as we did.

RuneE said...

That was a post that stung - at least they have stung me :-)
And interesting info as well.

PS I think it was cartoon figures

helenmac said...

Jennifer, a very informative and beautifully photographed essay on wasps and hoverflies. I will look at my many wasp nests with new interest this summer.
Thank you,
Helen Mac, ABC team

Jingle said...

lovely wonders of y in nature.
beautiful job.

Carver said...

Great sequence of photographs and information for the letter Y. I had a yellow jacket fly inside my sundress once and it was not fun at all.

Kay L. Davies said...

Very interesting. I had no idea anything imitated wasps. Never heard of hoverflies.
-- K

Kay, Alberta, Canada
An Unfittie's Guide to Adventurous Travel

Roger Owen Green said...

Good info. we've had our share of yellowjackets munching on our shed.

ROG, ABC Wednesday team

Tumblewords: said...

I've never looked a yellowjacket in the eye, on purpose! Excellent post, as always!

richies said...

More about wasps than I ever wanted no know. Thanks for the interesting Y

An Arkies Musings

EG Wow said...

You took some great photos of the yellow jackets. But I have to say they are NOT my favourite flying insects. :)

aykayem said...

Yes! - I like that post.
- thanks for sharing the info ... just a pity you guys had to share the wasps with us Aussies as well - they can be a real problem here, and are spreading.
btw - if I had known that what we call "European wasps" are also called Yellowjackets I would have included a photo of one in my "Yucky" post - LOL

Y. Ikeda said...

Fantastic zoology entry together with great photos!
Thanks for commenting on my Y entry.
"Y"oshi from Japan.

Francisca said...

That a super informative post about the yellowjacket... a pest I try to stay clear of! :-)