Family Vespidae (Summer 2022)

Last updatedLast updated: July 13, 2022
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Wasps, Hornets, Yellowjackets

Wasps of the Family Vespidae (Paper Wasps, Hornets, Yellowjackets) are social insects, building colonies out of paper like material (hence the names paper nests, paper wasps) and this group are some of the most dangerous stinging insects.
Mud Daubers can sting but do not belong to this group; they are solitary (not social) and build their nests or cells from mud, not paper.

In most cases, yellowjackets and hornets have a life cycle that runs on a yearly cycle.  In late fall or early winter, the social colonies begin to die off with a few queens finding areas to over winter.  These mated queens will begin the cycle anew in the spring by beginning new nests.  These nests can be built in various areas, depending on species.  Bumble Bees build underground nests, usually in an existing hole or burrow that lies beneath a rock, stone or man-made objects such as decking.
Although they are considered beneficial and a welcome guest in any garden, the bumble bee nest can sometimes become a hazard due to close proximity to often used paths or where children and pets frequent.  Control of bumblebees is similar to yellow jacket control.
Yellowjackets usually nest in the ground, taking advantage of old rodent burrows, cavities in the ground around the root systems of old trees or any other hole which they can take advantage of.  Yellowjackets will also nest in the wall voids of homes, beneath siding, behind brick veneer, in hollow blocks or other such spaces.  Great care should be taken in the elimination of yellowjacket nests.
Paper wasps and hornets build nests in more visible areas than do yellowjackets.
Hornet Nest Removal, Hornet EliminationPaper Wasp Elimination.]

The paper wasp nest is the familiar single layer of cells, suspended from the eaves of buildings, in old barns, on the underside of piers or billboards.  In most cases, these nests can be easily eliminated by first applying a wasp freeze and then spraying with a wettable powder insecticide to prevent the stinging wasps from rebuilding.
Hornet nests are similar to paper wasp nests in that they begin with the single layer of cells.  They then, however, suspend many layers together and “wrap up” the cells to form the familiar ball of paper you often see in trees or even on a home.  Hundreds of workers usually reside in these type of nest, so approach the colony with caution.  Crossing the flight paths of the workers, getting too close to the nest or otherwise disturbing the hornets or wasps can result in an attack you will not soon forget.

The first workers born to the mated queen start the tasks of expanding the paper nest started by their mated queen and to take care of the young brood.  As new workers are born, they too join in the job of expanding the nest and caring for the rest of the colony.

By summer, the foraging workers are in large enough numbers to become pests when their nests are in close proximity to man.  These workers forage for a variety of foods, depending on the needs of the colony.  In the fall of the year, new reproductives are produced by the colony, mating begins and the cycle starts again.
It is not uncommon for wasps to be seen, swarming in small numbers around homes and buildings in the fall.  The mating cycle causes wasps to fly around, becoming a nuisance to homeowners who cannot locate a nest to kill; they only see the wasps hovering around their homes and landscaping.

In most cases, the old nests (paper made from saliva and wood) decompose because they are no longer in use.  New nests are made by mated queens that survive the winter elements.  When possible, remove and destroy abandoned nests as they can contain larvae (which attracts predator bugs, spiders) and can be the direct cause of carpet beetle infestations in homes.  There have also been cases of paper nests igniting when fireplaces are used for the first time in the fall or winter.  If nests are not removed from chimneys, the paper can catch fire and burning embers are drawn up the chimney, exit and can cause nearby brush fires.

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