Currently viewing the category: "Hornets and Yellow Jackets"

Subject:  Cocoon
Geographic location of the bug:  Inside a shed hanging from ceiling
Date: 01/02/2019
Time: 02:42 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Hi. Just wondering what insect(?) Emerged from this?
How you want your letter signed:  Yvonne

Hornet Nest

Dear Yvonne,
We can’t help but to wonder if your ceiling is in Sydney, Australia or Schenectady, New York, or perhaps some other place on the planet.  This appears to be the early stages of a Bald Faced Hornet nest, so depending upon your location, this might be the nest of a related species  If summer just began in the Southern Hemisphere for you, this nest is probably being constructed.  If you are in the grips of a northeastern North American winter, this nest was probably long abandoned.

I live in Tasmania, Australia. It is the size of a tennis ball. I havent touched it to determine if its occupied. Its in a barren shed used as a change room at a local country pool. (So only used in summer). It is suspended from a ceiling joist. There was no activity for the 10 minutes we were in the shed. This was in the daytime
Cheers yvonne
Another suggestion was a polyphamus moth??
Just cant find an exact replica on google images.

Thanks for the clarification Yvonne.  This is not a moth cocoon.

Thanks Daniel. Will keep an eye on it. See what develops. Yvonne

Subject:  Bee or wasp?
Geographic location of the bug:  Andalusia, Spain
Date: 10/22/2018
Time: 12:35 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Dear Bugman,
Are these bees or wasps? where feeding on bottle brush. They where not small, much bigger than paper wasp, but they looked much more wasp like than a bee.
Malaga province,  Spain,  October 22, 2018
Thanks in advance
How you want your letter signed:  Perry

Vespid Wasp:  Vespa bicolor

Dear Perry,
This is definitely a Wasp and not a Bee.  It looks to us like one of the Paper Wasps in the genus
Polistes, but we have not found any images from Spain on the internet that resemble your individual.  Perhaps one of our readers will be able to substantiate or provide a correction.

Vespid Wasp:  Vespa bicolor

Correction:  December 29, 2018
Thanks to comments from several of our readers, though the species is still not identified, we now know that this is one of the Hornets or Yellowjackets in the subfamily Vespinae.

Update Regarding Permission to use images:  February 28, 2019
Dear Mr Marlos,
Thank you very much indeed for the pictures and the information on the terms of use!!  The main reasons I’m interested in using one of these images in my paper are that they show the species close-up and in great detail and that what you see is the living wasp going about its business, as opposed to any photographs of preserved, pinned specimens I could have contributed using my own material. Now let’s hope “Perry” does provide information on the locality where he took the photographs: it’s likely to lie inside the wasp’s known Spanish range, but, who knows, it might be a new locality/area, and that would increase our knowledge of the subject.
Best wishes,
Leopoldo Castro.

You are most welcome Leopoldo.  The submitted letter indicates the images were taken in “Malaga province,  Spain,  October 22, 2018.”

Dear Mr Marlos
My little investigation has born fruit, and here’s the “happy ending”.
On Friday I spent some time surfing the ‘net, with unexpectedly good results: first I found out what the photographer’s full name was, then I got hold of his email and finally I was able to contact him. He has kindly provided the exact locality (Mijas), as well as some other relevant details. This part of the puzzle is now complete, and I can move on to the next phase, thanks to your help and his.
Best wishes,
Leopoldo Castro.

Congratulations on your diligence Leopoldo.  I began What’s That Bug? in 1998 as a column in a zine called American Homebody that eventually became a website when the zine editor, and a collaborative artist on other projects I did, decided she wanted to learn web design, so What’s That Bug? became an online column on a website.  When Lisa Anne suggested I purchase the domain name in 2002 because my column generated more mail than the rest of the website combined.  I have been answering inquiries for 17 years, and I no entomological credentials, nor any science background.  I am an artist, so it gives me great satisfaction each time I am contacted because of the important sightings documented in our extensive database.  I’m so happy I was able to facilitate your research.

Dear Mr Marlos,
After a very short editorial process, I’ve had the paper on Vespa bicolor published by an entomological journal, and you can find it attached. As you’ll see, your valuable help is duly acknowledged at the end of the article (sorry that it’s in Spanish… the paper’s mostly aimed at Spain’s scientific community) (but’s it’s got a lot of international hits in the seven days it’s been available on the ‘net).
Best wishes,
Leopoldo Castro.
2019 Castro =V. bicolor[CAS19A]

Hi again Leopoldo,
Congratulations on your quick completion of your paper.

Subject:  Wasp or ?
Geographic location of the bug:  Andover, NJ
Your letter to the bugman:  I found a couple of these big wasps feeding on my mountain mint this morning and my first thought was “eastern yellow jacket”.  But as I looked closer, they don’t quite look right for the easter yj’s.  Any thoughts?  There were only two and they were very happy to nectar in among the bees and mason wasps.  No signs of aggression.
How you want your letter signed:  Deborah Bifulco

Possibly Common Aerial Yellowjacket

Hi Deborah,
After the last time we misidentified your Parasitic Yellowjacket, we demonstrated that we don’t really have much in the way of entomological chops.  According to BugGuide, in the subfamily Vespinae which contains Yellowjackets and Hornets, there are “22 spp. (of which 4 adventive or 2?) in 3 genera in our fauna” and many look remarkably similar.  This individual looks to us like it might be the Aerial Yellowjacket,
Dolichovespula arenaria, which is pictured on BugGuide, but it is not represented on Insect Identification for the Casual Observer using the New Jersey Hymenopteran filter.  Of the Common Aerial Yellowjacket, BugGuide states:  “They have mostly aerial nests, from a few centimeters above ground to the tops or trees, or houses or sheds. But in some cases they build nests under rocks or even underground.”  Does that look correct to you?  We can’t say for certain.

Possibly Common Aerial Yellowjacket

Hi Daniel,
I had actually wondered if it might be The Common Aerial YJ, but I just wasn’t sure.  I’m inclined to agree that this seems the most likely id for this big wasp.  Interesting, though, that Bugguide describes them as being primarily predatory and these were definitely after nectar, totally ignoring the many other tasty insects on the mint.
The mountain mint has yielded a couple of interesting feather-legged flies this morning so I’m going to take a crack at id-ing them, but may be back for an assist on one.  I also saw, for the briefest of moments  Great Black Wasp, which was thrilling.  She buzzed me a few times before taking off.  I don’t see them all that often here, so that was pretty exciting.


Subject:  Scary looking bug
Geographic location of the bug:  In ancient Pompeii
Date: 08/11/2018
Time: 08:52 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Have seen quite a few of these on holiday in Italy. This particular one is in the ruins of Pompeii but many were not. Could you attempt to identify I’d be interested to know what it is
How you want your letter signed:  George

Oriental Hornet

Dear George,
When we searched for Hornet sightings in Pompeii, we found this FlickR posting of an Oriental Hornet,
Vespa orientalis.  According to Encyclopedia of Life, the Oriental Hornet:  “is a social insect of the Vespidae family. It can be found in Southwest Asia, Northeast Africa, the island of Madagascar, and parts of Southern Europe. Oriental hornets have also been found in a few isolated locations such as Mexico due to human introduction. The Oriental hornet lives in seasonal colonies consisting of caste system dominated by a queen. The hornet builds its nests underground and communicates using sound vibrations. The hornet has a yellow stripe on its cuticle (exoskeleton) which can absorb sunlight to generate a small electrical potential, and it has been suggested that this might help supply energy for digging. The adult hornet eats nectar and fruits and scavenges for insects and animal proteins to feed to their young. Because they are scavengers, the hornets may also serve as a transmitter of disease following consumption infected plants. The hornets are a primary pest to honey bees, attacking bee colonies to obtain honey and animal proteins. The sting of an Oriental hornet can be quite painful to humans and some humans are allergic to stings.

Subject:  Bald-faced Hornet or Blackjacket?
Geographic location of the bug:  Andover, NJ
Date: 06/23/2018
Time: 06:13 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  I found this robust looking hornet at the edge of the woods on our property a couple of days ago.  It doesn’t look quite right for a bald-faced hornet to me, although several have insisted that it is one.  I think it looks better for a Blackjacket, which would also be a new species for me.
Can you give me some wisdom?
How you want your letter signed:  Deborah Bifulco

Parasitic Yellowjacket

Dear Deborah,
We always enjoy your submissions.  Quite frankly, we do not know how to easily tell the difference between a Bald Faced Hornet and a Blackjacket, but we are working on getting you an answer.  Our gut instinct is that this is a Bald Faced Hornet.  We have contacted Eric Eaton for assistance.

Parasitic Yellowjacket

Eric Eaton Responds
Oh, wow, this is neither Bald-faced Hornet nor Blackjacket.  It is a social parasite of the Aerial Yellowjacket.  It is called the Parasitic Yellowjacket, Dolichovespula arctica.  Always a great find!  They are not that common.
and my own blog post:
author, Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America

Hi again Deborah,
BugGuide also indicates:  “The species most easily confused with the Parasitic is the Blackjacket.”  Eric Eaton’s blog posting is very informative, including the statement that the Parasitic Yellowjacket “has no worker caste like the Aerial Yellowjacket, only reproductive females, and males.”

Well, how cool!!  I am so glad I sent this to you.  I just didn’t think it was a bald-faced, but would never have come up with this identification without your and Eric’s help.  Thank you!

Subject:  What’s this bee?
Geographic location of the bug:  Orange County, NY
Date: 05/26/2018
Time: 08:17 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Woke up to find this giant bee IN MY BEDROOM this morning. It wanted out (and I wanted it out) and somehow everyone left the room alive. It was a significantly large bee — unquestionably the biggest I’ve ever seen, and solidly in the inch-long realm.
How you want your letter signed:  Thanks

European Hornet

This is not a bee.  It is a European Hornet, a species introduced to North America at the end of the nineteenth century.