The Starlings of the Yellow Jacket World
This is the time of year when you hear a lot of fussing about yellow
jackets. (Or, if the fusser hasn't looked too closely -- "bees" --
which seems to mean "anything that stings.") Bees are important
pollinators, yellow jackets do little pollination. So we need to protect
bees, and kill yellow jackets -- Right?
Actually yellow jackets have an old and honorable tradition. Our
native yellow jackets (hundreds of species) are an important biological
control for pest insects. They LOVE to catch and feed their young that
fat juicy caterpillar that's munching on your cabbage. And they do a
little pollination too.
But we have one scoundrel amongst them - the German yellow jacket. It
was accidently imported in the 1940's and has spread across the continent.
It has no significant enemies here, so it overpopulates, crowding out and
replacing more beneficial types.
It also is a scavanger. ...And has a sweet tooth. By mid-summer, when
populations are built up, to the first killing freeze, they'll be out
looking for your soda, or anything sweet you throw into the dumpster.
They can be a royal pest at the Labor Day picnic. They love to suck the
juices from ripe fruits, and by breaking the skin, open them up for other
And, if you run your mower over their underground nest, they will
sting like fury.
There is a file common around university or extension web sites, which
you can usually find by running a search at the site. One is at:
yellowjackets/ This will tell you how to kill yellow jackets.
Now if you see your local handyman-type yellow jacket, be nice to it.
But if it is the German yellow jacket, the starling of the yellow jacket
world, you have permission to kill it, and all her sisters.
For a picture of a German yellow jacket, which is smaller than a
honeybee, stop by http://users.aol.com/pollinator/compare.htm
This, compared to a honeybees can help in identification.
Pollinator@aol.com Dave and Janice Green
Practical Pollination Home Page
PO Box 1200, Hemingway, SC 29554