YELLOWJACKETS AND HORNETS ARE BUZZING. Yellowjackets and baldfaced hornets seemed to be unusually quit this season with some county fairs making it through with few stinging casualties. Unfortunately, these striped marauders now seem to be flying out of nowhere to wreak havoc on outdoor activities where people, food, drinks ... and these stinging insects may converge.
Yellowjackets and baldfaced hornets build circular to oblong paper nests by using their powerful mandibles to first scrap fibers from exposed wood and then to mix the fibers with their saliva. The resulting paper extruded from their mouths is light weight but strong and water repellent. However, the nests only last one season. The workers and old queens in the current season's nests will freeze to death during the winter and the current season's nests will never be reused. Only the new queens that are now maturing will leave the nests to spend the winter alone in a protection location; these are the queens that will initiate new nests next season.
Both baldfaced hornets and yellowjackets spend much of the growing season as highly accomplished predators; they are considered beneficial insects despite their painful stinging behavior. They seek out soft-bodied insects including caterpillars and sawfly larvae and use their powerful mandibles grind-up their victims into insect puree. The "workers" feed this insect-mush to the grub-like larvae housed in paper cells within their nests; it provides the necessary protein to support the growth of the larvae.
However, the behavior of the workers changes when new queens and drones (males) emerge in the fall. These new-comers do not require protein since they are not growing; they need energy from carbohydrates. So, they lounge around the nest begging the workers for sweets. In an effort to appease these freeloaders, the workers search for foods that provide the much needed energy boost, such as soda, donuts, hamburgers, and French fries; the fine cuisine severed at picnics, ball parks, and other outdoor gatherings! Of course, as fall comes to an end, the new queens and drones leave their nest to mate, and the mated queens seek protected overwintering sites. The colony from which they developed dies during the winter. This means that there is no point in trying to destroy yellowjacket or hornet nests at this time of the year since they will eventually die-out on their own; with no fanfare for the poor overworked workers.