The yellow jacket is a common name in North America for predatory wasps of the generaVespula. Members of these genera are known simply as wasps in other English-speaking countries. Most of these are black-and-yellow, while others may have the abdomen background color red instead of black. They can be identified by their distinctive markings, small size, their occurrence only in colonies, and a characteristic, rapid, side to side flight pattern prior to landing.
Nests are built in trees, shrubs, or in protected places such as inside human-made structures, attics, hollow walls or flooring, in sheds, under porches and eaves of houses, or in soil cavities and mouse burrows. Nests are made from wood fiber chewed into a paper-like pulp.
In 1975, the German yellowjacket first appeared in Ohio and has now become the dominant species over the Eastern Yellow Jacket. It is bold and aggressive, and if provoked, it can sting repeatedly and painfully. The German yellowjacket builds its nests in cavities with the peak worker population between 1,000 and 3,000 individuals during May to August, each colony producing several thousand new reproductives after this point, through November.
The Eastern Yellow Jacket builds its nests underground. Nests are built entirely of wood fiber and are completely enclosed except for a small entrance at the bottom. The color of the paper is highly dependent on the source of the wood fibers used. The nests contain multiple, horizontal tiers of combs within. In the Southeastern United States, where southern yellowjacket nests may persist through the winter, colony sizes of this species may reach 100,000 adult wasps.
The yellowjacket’s most visible place in American culture is as the mascot of the Georgia Institute of Technology, Montana State University Billings, University of Rochester and Berkeley High School in California. In Columbus, Ohio, the Columbus Blue Jackets formerly used a logo featuring a “blue jacket” insect, based on the yellowjacket. This fictional “blue jacket” resembles a yellowjacket wearing a blue Civil War uniform.