Last summer I killed a Yellow Jacket nest that was constructed in an old camper shell at our cabin. Normally I coexist with the wildlife around me but I had a visitor who was allergic to wasp stings.
The workers were all Aerial Yellow Jackets (Dolichovespula arenaria). This is one of our native species. The yellow banding pattern on the abdomen is distinctive with a black “V” in the middle of the relatively wide yellow band. The face is almost solid yellow. The Canadian Journal of Arthropod Identification has a great website for wasp identification.
I also found Yellow Jackets that were mainly black and white. These were Parasitic Yellow Jackets (Dolichovespula arctica). This is the only parasitic species in the genus found in eastern North America. It also goes by the name of Dolichovespula adulterina.
D. adulterina is a broader classification and includes D. arctica. Whichever name you use there is still only a single parasitic Yellow Jacket species in Michigan.
Parasitic Yellow Jackets reproduce only in Aerial Yellow Jacket nests. A Parasitic Yellow Jacket queen invades an established Aerial Yellow Jacket nest. It either kills the Aerial Yellow Jacket queen immediately or coexists for a time with her and then kills her. Aerial Yellow Jacket workers raise the parasites’ young. The parasite produces only males (drones) and queens who eventually take control of the nest. Each queen, once they mate, overwinters outside of the nest and then repeats the same process the following year.
I intend to look at Yellow Jackets more closely and hope to find a parasitized nest for further study.
Copyright 2016 by Donald Drife
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