Yellow Jackets


  • Colour Black and yellow
  • Size 12 to 18 mm
  • Notes Larger than other types of wasps but smaller than hornets, yellow jackets share a number of similarities with their other stinging relatives. In Canada, the most common types of yellow jackets which frequent manmade structures, and are therefore considered important structure-infesting pests, are the common yellow jacket, the German yellow jacket, Eastern yellow jacket, and the aerial yellow jacket.

How to identify Yellow Jackets

Regardless of species, the yellow jacket body is divided into three distinct body parts: the head, thorax, and abdomen. The stinging insect also boasts two pairs of wings, with the forewings being larger than the hind ones. They have relatively short antennae. Queens are slightly larger than their workers and drones, but all yellow jackets range from 12 to 18 mm in size. Black and yellow in colour, each species has a unique pattern on the abdomen that allows for easy classification.

Signs of an infestation

Heightened yellow jacket activity around the home during the summer typically indicates the existence of a nest somewhere on the premises. Furthermore, sighting a large, paper-like structure in the yard or attic usually means a yellow jacket infestation has occurred.

Yellow Jackets Removal

Due to the aggressive nature of yellow jackets, individuals should refrain from handling or treating an established nest without the aid of a properly licensed professional. Local pest control companies can treat nests with appropriately labelled insecticides and remove nests accordingly.

How to prevent Yellow Jackets from invading

Total prevention of yellow jackets is nearly impossible. Homes and lawns are rife with the shelter, food, and water that the pests need to survive, and eliminating any or all of these necessities usually proves particularly challenging. However, certain prevention methods can make a yellow jacket infestation less likely. Start by sealing all outdoor trash receptacles tightly and keeping foliage from touching the outer walls of the home. Maintain the cleanliness of the structure and the lawn, and seal any foundation cracks with caulk. Also, replace broken and torn window screens.

Habitat, Diet, and Life Cycle


Canadian species of yellow jackets are found throughout the Nearctic region. Specifically speaking, the common yellow jacket is also present in Europe, Mexico, Japan, and Iran. Likewise, the German yellow jacket is native to Europe and also occurs in Argentina, Chile, Australia, and New Zealand.

Nest size, shape, and location depend on the species. The aerial yellow jacket prefers to construct nests hanging from shrubs, trees, or building eaves, while the common yellow jacket most often lives completely or partially below ground. German yellow jackets target wall voids and attics.


Yellow jacket adults typically feed on nectar, pollen, honeydew, and the juices of various ripe fruits. This is why, when yellow jackets invade picnics, they frequently swarm sugary beverages. Developing larvae, on the other hand, are mainly fed bits of smaller, soft-bodied insects like caterpillars and flies.

Life Cycle

The life cycle of yellow jackets closely resembles that of their wasp and hornet relatives. Just prior to winter, the queen of the colony produces fertile females and males who mate with each other upon reaching maturity. With the exception of the recently fertilized females, who overwinter in protected sites, the members of the colony die before the first serious cold fronts arrive. Once winter concludes, the females emerge, establish new nesting sites, and care for their first brood until those workers are mature and capable of taking over all responsibilities, not including reproduction.

Commonly Asked Questions

How worried should I be about Yellow Jackets?

Among the most aggressive types of stinging arthropods, yellow jacket species often go to great lengths to protect their nests. German yellow jackets in particular will chase intruders and other perceived threats for long distances to keep the colony safe. As such, nests in close proximity to homes put residents in constant danger of being stung. While a typical sting will cause slight discomfort or pain, as well as swelling and redness, allergic individuals experience more severe reactions.

Other pests related to Yellow Jackets

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