Hornets and yellowjackets

Common Aerial Yellowjacket on goldenrod


There are a number of species of wasps with bold designs of black or dark brown and yellow or black and white which go by the names of hornets or yellowjackets. They are narrow waisted strong fliers that fold their wings when in repose.

Baldfaced Hornet on goldenrod


There are several species of these wasps and the pattern varies depending on the species, but they generally present stripes. They are about half an inch in size or longer. They are feared for their painful sting, although they are not prone to attacking when at flowers. They build large nests, with a queen and many female workers and also some males.

Eastern Yellowjacket on Queen Anne's lace


Some build their nests underground (terrestrial), others hanging from tree branches or inside a tree hole (aerial) and still others build either aerial of terrestrial nests, depending on the circumstances. They are defensive of their nests and that is when they can be dangerous. They hunt insects to feed the young and also visit flowers for the nectar that fuels their flight. Some are lesser pollinators.

Habitat. Meadows, fields, gardens, areas with some trees.

Season. March to November, year round in southern states. Most abundant in August and September.

Flowers. Most wide open flowers, such as those in the Apiaceae and Asteraceae families. Goldenrod and Queen Anne’s lace seem to be their favorites.

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