Which Yellowjacket is it??

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.


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