The yellowjacket is one of the most menacing insects known to man. These brightly colored wasps possess a fiery sting and bite seemingly out of proportion to their size.
Yellowjackets are not 'bees', and they're definitely not friendly. So what makes them so dangerous?
1. They're aggressive. Yellowjackets are more aggressive than other stinging insects such as wasps, hornets, mud daubers or bees.
2. They can sting AND bite. Since yellowjackets don’t lose their stinger, they can sting numerous times, and will do so unprovoked. In fact, they usually bite your flesh to get a better grip as they jab their stinger into your skin.
3. They're defensive. Yellowjackets vigorously defend their nests. They will assign a "guard" to stand watch at the nest opening and alert the colony to a threat. Swarm attacks can occur when someone accidentally steps in, hits, or even comes too close to a nest. Attacks of hundreds of yellowjackets from underground nests can also be triggered by ground vibrations – thus, mowing lawns can be hazardous during the late summer season when colonies are large.
4. They sting you for no reason. Even if you're minding your own business and nowhere near a nest, yellowjackets don't care -- they'll sting you anyway!
5. They're scavengers. Yellowjackets are a common pest at picnics and other outdoor activities. They scavenge for meat and sweet liquids, which brings them into frequent contact with humans with ample opportunity to sting. (See #4.)
6. Their sting packs a punch. For people who are allergic, one yellowjacket sting can be deadly. But even if you don't have an allergic reaction, the sting is plenty painful. "Imagine WC Fields extinguishing a cigar on your tongue..." is how entomologist Justin Schmidt, creator of the "Schmidt Sting Pain Index", described a yellowjacket sting.
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