Can you find the opening to a yellow jackets’ underground nest? It’s not the small hole in the middle of the picture near the stick. I obviously wouldn’t have found it either if I hadn’t been stooped there taking flower pictures. I kept on taking pictures and then had to hunt to find the tunnel opening to photograph it. I didn’t find it until the yellow jacket came back out of the nest.
The arrow in the picture (left) shows the head of the yellow jacket coming out of the nest. Today’s Tuesday, April 17. This blows my mind. On Monday, April 9th, Buffy and I were hiking here at my rural property too. We were walking up the trail in woods toward the barrens, when a yellow jacket flew in, landed and went into the hole to its nest. In all the years I’ve hiked, going back over 30 years to when my kids were young, I only saw 1 yellow jacket nest. The yellow jacket flew from its nest. There I was, and it stung me right below the elbow. That was when I found out I was allergic to them.
This other picture is one I took several winters ago when I found a nest that had been dug out by either a skunk or raccoon. Bears will dig them out too, but we don’t have them here in southern Illinois.
Yellow jackets are 1/2 to 5/8 inch long. They live in meadows and edges of forested land, where they usually nest in the ground or at ground level in stumps and fallen logs. Adults eat nectar. Larvae are fed insects pre-chewed by adults.
Yellow jackets overwinter as fertilized queens. The queens become active in the spring, when they gather nesting materials and start a small nest. After she makes a few hexagonal cells and a covering around them, she lays an egg in each cell. The eggs hatch in a week, and the queen feeds the larvae small bits of prey for 10-12 days.
The larvae then pupate in their cells for another 12 days. The adults emerge as sterile females and start working for the queen. Late in the summer, the queen lays eggs that develop into males and fertile females. These mate. The fertilized females overwinter, and the cycle begins again.
I do hope my luck goes back to not seeing yellow jackets going in or coming out of their nest.