Yellow jackets are nasty little brutes. Where other insects, bugs, and assorted tiny, winged monstrosities will quickly scurry, slither, or fly far away from humans, yellow jackets will charge and attack. And attack again. And then attack again, as long as needed until the anguished human quickly scurries away in great distress. To make matters worse, while attacking, they recruit their nasty little brutish friends to join in on the aerial assault. This makes the news that yellow jackets are now building super-nests containing 10,000+ winged tormenters most terrifying.
Lest you think I’m being hyperbolic or overly-fearful, I was once stung over 20 times by a horde of yellow jackets angry that I had stumbled upon their nest. While I’m not allergic to stings and bites, thankfully, that many yellow jacket stings left me with a high fever and the need for Benadryl — not to mention the immense pain. I’m very aware of the damage that can be inflicted by yellow jackets when one unwittingly comes across their nest.
I guess the good news about the super-nests is that it will be much harder to accidentally “find” them. The super-nests, unlike the typical underground nests of yellow jackets, are usually perched on the sides of buildings and are very hard to miss, although many people may not be aware of what they are until it’s too late. In an article posted on CBS’s website, it’s explained that:
A typical yellow jacket nest is usually found in the ground or a cavity – peaking at around 4,000 to 5,000 worker wasps that don’t make it through the colder winter. This causes the queen to leave and create new colonies in the spring when the weather improves.
Milder winters, coupled with an abundant food supply, have allowed some colonies to brave the winter weather and fly into spring with higher than usual numbers. The “normal cues” that usually cause queens to disperse may “not happen,” and researches have seen multiple queens living in the huge colonies. The phenomenon has been called a perennial yellow jacket nest.
Officials are warning residents to look out for yellow jacket abodes that are swelling to huge proportions. https://t.co/bHeyujT6XK
— Smithsonian Magazine (@SmithsonianMag) July 1, 2019
Yellow jacket ‘super nest’ found in Alabama. 500K wasps in it. UGA expert says says if you see 2 in your yard, there may be 2-thousand nearby. 5pm pic.twitter.com/rmU5kAk4KZ
— Berndt Petersen (@BPetersenWSB) June 28, 2019
According to the article, yellow jacket super-nests were first observed by researchers in 2006. This year, though, they’re being observed much earlier. Charles Ray, an entomologist at Auburn University, revealed that the nests he has seen this year “already have more than 10,000 workers and are expanding rapidly.”
Have you seen the meme about burning your house down when you find a spider? Imagine finding a yellow jacket super-nest filled with over 10,000 angry wasps perched on the side of your house. And then imagine that it’s “expanding rapidly.” Burning your house down may be required to save civilization.
In all seriousness, though, entomologist Charles Ray urges people to stay away from the nests and to call qualified pest control expert to deal with it. As another entomologist pointed out in the article, almost all deaths caused by stings in America are from yellow jackets.