Sunday, May 22, 2011

Upground Yellow Jacket Nest

This delicate little structure almost looks like one of the myriad species of fungi that are appearing this year, but if you were to pick it, you would find it not as benign as you might first suspect.

Inside the umbrella like shell is the beginning of a wasp nest. The queen has begun laying eggs, so it won’t be long before the colony really becomes active. As the colony grows, the cap will be enlarged to fully enclose the brood chambers. I believe this to be Vespula alascensis, but the descriptions and photos I’ve seen are of the workers and may not accurately describe the queen. I’ll recheck my identification if it reaches the point where workers are present.

I always say that all you have to do is step outside if you want to find something interesting. This nest is a perfect example. Well, I guess it’s perfect except for the fact that just above the front door to my house is not the ideal location for something that frightens most people. I really don’t mind if the resulting swarm chases people away, but I’d hate for them to scare away the UPS guy and if they buzzed my wife, I’d be in big trouble.

I took these pictures in the cool of the morning and the queen was content to stay in the nest and waggle antennae at me. In the heat of the afternoon she took a more defensive posture and took to the air whenever I came near.

Relocation of the nest is probably the best course of action. Normally, collecting a nest for relocation is accomplished during the night. In this case I can’t do that because there’s a nesting Phoebe just a few feet away and I don’t want to scare it off the eggs after dark. I went out a short while ago to make my capture and found the nest empty. The queen must be out foraging. I left my equipment by the door in anticipation of her return. It’ll be a good test of my reflexes to see if I can get a jar over her nest before she can take wing to defend her brood.


  1. Oh, my, I hope to see you here again soon all safe and sound.

    Seriously, we had yellow jackets in our compost bins a few years ago. Sadly, the dog got nosey and suffered terribly.

    I don't blame you for moving those critters.

  2. Hi, Lois. It looks like I won't have to move the nest after all. I haven't seen the queen all day and she didn't make it back to the nest before dark. I think she may have met with misfortune while out foraging for food and nest material.