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Yellow Jacket

Introduction

Only two of the 18 Nearctic species of Vespula are known from Florida (Miller 1961). These are the two yellowjackets: eastern yellowjacket, V. maculifrons (Buysson) and the southern yellowjacket, V. squamosa (Drury). One species of Dolichovespula is also present: the baldfaced hornet, D. maculata (Linnaeus). The baldfaced hornet is actually a yellowjacket. It receives its common name of baldfaced from its largely black color but mostly white face, and that of hornet because of its large size and aerial nest. In general, the term “hornet” is used for species which nest above ground and the term “yellowjacket” for those which make subterranean nests. All species are social, living in colonies of hundreds to thousands of individuals.

Identification

The three species of Florida yellowjackets are readily separated by differences in body color and pattern. Identification is possible without hand lens or microscope, and, for this reason, a simple pictorial key is all that is necessary. Color patterns are relatively stable, and their use is further strengthened by morphological characters (Miller 1961). Queens and workers may be separated by abdominal patterns; males have seven abdominal segments while females have only six.