Hello folks who wonder if scratching an itch is one of life's most underappreciated pleasures,

Did you hear that a 5 year old kid playing in the park got stung by a yellow jacket. So what do you do next? You usually love nature but by attacking innocent kids, nature crossed the line this time.

So you gather your pitchforks and start exterminating all the yellow jacket colonies you come across.

This is what you might have seen, before you burn their house down."This one is for the kids!" you shout just before.

You feel glad you got rid of one nest and ultimately reduced the chances of another kid getting attacked in the future. But then one day, you walk to a park and you see the "alleged" attacker on a flower. It looks pretty docile and if you get too close it flies away. So you start thinking, "Huh, did they learn a lesson already?"

But then one fall afternoon when you are BBQing at the park with your friends(yeah that's right people are judging you for BBQing during the shelter-in place), you see the yellow jacket aggressively coming close to you, almost stalking you and your food. But this one is much more hairy and chunky, so you wonder "Did I just put the wrong one behind bars?".

So you ask a friend who can distinguish the birds from the bees. And you find out the one you attacked was the European Paper Wasp nest which is a non-native species of wasps we find in California and not the yellow jacket nest. You console yourself, they probably deserved it since they did not have the valid immigration papers.

Ground Yellow Jackets unlike Paper Wasps conceal their nests and are typically not visible above the ground. You can spot where a nest might be if you can spot a tiny hole and some yellow jacket activity at the ground level.

If you notice, yellow jackets are not much of a pain during the start of summer, but by the end of summer or fall they start invading your personal space in parks and insect stings can take place. This is because at the time of the year, these yellow jacket workers hit the peak number of mouths to feed before the colony will collapse in the next few weeks. The meat they are scavenging is for the larvae that will end up becoming next year's queens or the drones(males) that will inseminate queens from other colonies. And protein is required in large numbers to fill all those mouths, so what better way to get the protein than steal from your picnic table.

Below is a group rushing to tear apart a carrion before it is picked up by a bigger animal.

Next time you spot one on your food or a carrion, observe how they cut the bite sized piece of meat using their serrated mandibles.

And if you get a closer look at their serrated mandibles.

And finally, since California is not an open carry firearms state and only issues concealed carry permits from arms, these yellow jackets will conceal their stinger till it is time to attack. Here is a closer look at the concealed stinger.

Want to learn more differences between Yellow Jackets and Paper Wasps, check this post.


Shameless plug:

If you have made it this far, I would like to promote this event I am a part of, to help raise funds for SFBBO. This event is hosted by Merav(one of my favorite naturalists) and myself where we will show a bunch of videos about how one can enjoy nature in the most unlikely of places and help you get started for the Urban Bioblitz Challenge by training you to use iNaturalist. The funds raised using this event will help SFBBO with research programs, including their bird banding study at the Coyote Creek Field Station and their colonial waterbird nest monitoring research.

Event link - https://www.flipcause.com/secure/cause_pdetails/OTI3OTM=

  • $10 for individual registration
  • $25 for family registration(group of 4)

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