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Yellowjackets are aggressive pests that possess a painful sting and bite. You’ll find the bright yellow and black insects in the backyard, at picnics and other outdoor activities.

Geographic Region

Yellowjackets of various species are found throughout North America.

Natural Habitat

Yellowjacket nests are usually built underground, although some species will construct their nests in hollow logs, trees, attics, between walls, or under eaves of houses. An underground yellowjacket nest is difficult to locate because the entrance is about the size of a nickel.

Most yellowjacket workers forage for food within 1,000 feet of their nest -- a distance of three football fields.

In the middle of the season -- usually June or July -- yellowjackets are drawn to protein sources, such as hamburgers on the barbecue grill. During the late summer to early fall, they tend to shift their diet to sweets, including soda and juice.

Weather Conditions

Yellowjackets are more common in hot, arid climates.


Yellowjackets scavenge for meat and sweet liquids, which brings them into frequent contact with humans. Yellowjacket attacks can be deadly for people who are allergic to their stings.

Yellowjackets are more aggressive than other stinging insects such as wasps, hornets, mud daubers or bees. Yellowjackets can both sting and bite -- they will often bite to get a better grip to jab their stinger in. Since they don't lose their stinger, they can sting numerous times, and will do so unprovoked.

Yellowjackets vigorously defend their nests. Swarm attacks can occur when someone accidentally steps in or hits a nest opening. Ground vibrations can also trigger attacks from underground nests -- thus, mowing lawns can be hazardous during the late summer season when colonies are large.

Unique Characteristics

Often mistaken for bees, yellowjackets are brighter in color, with a thinner, more defined waist.

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