Southern Yellowjacket Queen

Subject: some sort of hornet?
Location: Missouri, United States
May 10, 2014 8:16 pm
lately I’ve been flipping over old rotten wood pieces and finding a hornet like this nestled into the wood. I don’t see these flying around or anything and they don’t look like any hornet I’ve googled, so I was hoping you could help out!
Signature: Stolz

Southern Yellowjacket Queen
Southern Yellowjacket Queen

Dear Stolz,
This is a Southern Yellowjacket,
Vespula squamosa, and we believe it is a queen whose winter hibernation you have interrupted. According to BugGuide:  “Queens are facultative temporary social parasites, and frequently usurp established young nests of other yellowjacket species, usually V. maculifrons. There are also records of this species utilizing V. vidua and V. flavopilosa as hosts. The queens are extremely large and robust for a yellowjacket, a trait which surely helps them to overpower and kill the host queens of the colonies they usurp. A study in Georgia found that about 80% of V. squamosa colonies began by usurpation of a V. maculifrons colony. Facultative temporary social parasitism means that the species may parasitize other species, but is still capable of founding its own colonies, and it retains a worker caste. After killing the host queen, the squamosa adopts the nest and host workers, who raise her offspring. The colony eventually becomes pure squamosa as the original host workers die off.”  BugGuide also states:  “This species emerges in spring later than its frequent host, Vespula maculifrons, so that there are numerous young colonies available for usurpation.”

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