July 24, 2012

Where those yellow jackets are headed

I was curious about where the yellow jackets from our house were heading - what kind of science did we donate them to? So I asked Kevin Loope some questions, and I added some links to his answers:

How long will you be looking for more nests?

I'll be looking for the next 3-4 weeks, after which this species enters decline and nests are no longer active.

Any idea what species those guys were?

The species is the common aerial yellowjacket, Dolichovespula arenaria. It is in the same genus as the bald faced hornet (Dolichovespula maculata) which builds similar nests and is actually a type of yellowjacket, not a true hornet (genus Vespa).

How much more difficult is this than working with bees?

These guys are in some ways more challenging than working with honeybees, in that they are typically much more aggressive than honeybees, and studying them requries finding new nests each year. Plus, their biology is much more poorly understood, which makes it both more exciting and challenging to study their behavior and ecology.

Seeking yellow jackets and wasps.
Seeking yellow jackets and wasps. (Photo from Kevin Loope)

I've attached a photo of a nest in observation boxes I have set up, and here's a link to a video of a fascinating behavior I'm currently investigating, when workers kill their queen in some colonies. They are like honeybees in many ways, though there is much more conflict among colony members over who gets to reproduce, and in some colonies this appears to lead to outright violence!

Kevin also adds:

I'll be collecting nests this year and again next year, so if folks want to contact me, they can email at kjloope@gmail.com.

Posted by simon at July 24, 2012 5:18 AM in
Note on photos