|Syrphid fly, Milesia virginiensis on my arm|
I was chasing a tiny skink through the leaf litter six feet from our front door when I saw several yellow flying insects. We have Syrphid or flower flies on our deck regularly, scaring visitors as they look like yellowjacket wasps but I wasn't fooled..... yet. I got out my pocket camera to get some closeup videos, a big mistake. Just then I saw five swarming around in the grass and then more hovering around a finger sized hole. I thought "Do Syrphid flies nest communally?" just 2 seconds before the first of several stings - "Yellowjackets!"
I ran backward swatting them off and the attack stopped as the swelling started under three stings. We love nature but occasionally nature gets too close and our house qualifies as unnatural. After applying ice to the stings with unimpressive results, I got a can of "kills on contact" wasp spray and soaked the hole from a distance several times. I returned 20 minutes later with my telephoto camera. (Note to self - video wasp nest = telephoto).
In spite of the insecticide, the hole was busy with wasps coming and going for the next 8 hours. Many of the outward bound were carrying something in their mouths. They were moving too fast to see what they were carrying. It looked like they were panicked and evacuating the hole. So much for the "kills on contact" on the spray can. Apparently Ozark yellowjackets can't read.
|YJ with a mouth full of rock - REK|
|Outer bottom layer with side holes - B. Davis|
|Seven layer yellowjacket nest - Hornet King, B. Davis|
|Weaving a cap -Click to enlarge (HK)|
As I nursed the swelling over the next 5 days, I identified my new neighbors as eastern yellowjackets, Vespula maculifrons. Baldfaced hornets (Dolichovespula Maculata) are yellowjackets with a pale makeup. Both are colonial nesters but hornets nest above ground while YJ are usually below ground or in enclosed spaces like the soffit of a house. We have that problem with our red Polistes wasps, but at least they aren't quite as irritable.
Additional thoughts from Hornet King:
There are many subspecies of wasps in the Dolichovespula grouping. Another of the Aerial nest builders is the Dolichovespula Arenaria, which look very similar to the subterranean YJ (Southern Yellow Jacket - Vespula Squamosa) species. This subject is always a area of confusion for my many of my viewers as they think "Yellow Jacket" is a term only given to yellow and black wasps. However, there is more to the classification than just its yellow body (Bald faced hornet being a prime example)
Promachus hinei with YJ
* Slow motion video of yellowjackets rock excavation
** The Hornet King Youtube channel has many more detailed explanations of the nests of other colonial nest builder wasp species.
Yellowjackets on Bugguide.
Yellowjackets and Hornets on University of Florida.edu