Yellow jackets are wasps that can be identified by their alternating black and yellow body segments, small size and distinctive side-to-side flying pattern. They are often mistaken for bees, although their bodies lack the hair and rounded abdomen of the bee. These social wasps live in colonies that may contain a thousand insects at a time. They measure between one half and one inch in length. Most yellow jackets are black and yellow, although some may exhibit white and black coloration.
Yellow Jacket Stings
Known to be aggressive defenders of their colonies, yellow jackets are otherwise not quick to sting. The sting of a yellow jacket is painful and each insect is capable of delivering multiple stings. Because they are equipped with lance-like stingers without barbs, yellow jackets are capable of stinging repeatedly. Yellow jacket stings may induce severe allergic reactions in some individuals.
Many yellow jackets are ground-nesters. Their colonies can be found under porches or steps, in sidewalk cracks, around railroad ties, or at the base of trees. Sometimes the queen finds an abandoned rodent burrow to use as a nesting place. Some yellow jackets build aerial nests in bushes or low-hanging branches or in the corners of buildings and other man-made structures.