Actual Size: ½” to 1”

Characteristics: Black or dark brown, usually with yellow markings.

Legs: 6

Antennae: Yes

Habitat: Paper carton nests made up of chewed cellulose found in the ground, eaves, or attics


  • Social insects that live in colonies with up to 4,000 workers
  • They are able to sting more than once
  • Seek out fruit and sugar during the summer months

Yellowjackets in Virginia

Often mistaken for bees, due to their yellow-and-black coloring, yellow jackets are actually wasps. At about 1 1/2 inches long, they triple the average honey bee in length. Although the end of the warm-weather months means larvae production stops and males die off after mating, the yellow jacket is at its most active during the late summer in Virginia. These beneficial wasps live in colonies with thousands of individuals and would be a lesser threat to humans, were it not for their opportunistic behavior of nesting in structural voids, attics, and cavities associated with landscaping features. Adult yellowjackets feed mainly on fruit juices and other sweet liquid materials, whereas their larvae are fed bits of soft-bodied insects.

Yellowjacket Nests & Habitat

Yellowjackets can be divided into ground nesters (wasps that nest in old rodent burrows), and aerial nesters. Above-ground nests are found among the leafy branches of trees and shrubs and also on structures. Occasionally, the nest may be constructed on the side of a building, in wall voids, under eaves, crawlspaces, and attics. The entrance of the nest is normally a hole located at the bottom. These aerial nesters don’t become scavengers in the fall, but they are extremely defensive when their nests are disturbed. Locating the nest, through observing flight patterns, is essential to eliminate them.

Yellowjacket Behavior & Threats

Yellowjackets have a reputation for being one of the most aggressive stinging insects. Usually, they won’t sting unless provoked. However, they can get more aggressive in the early fall as resources begin to dwindle. Yellowjacket stings pose a more serious threat to humans than bees, because a yellowjackets stinger is not barbed like a honey bee, allowing it to sting repeatedly. Some individuals are more sensitive than others, due to allergic reactions, and should seek medical attention when stung.

Sometimes yellowjackets living in wall voids chew their way through the drywall and enter the structure’s living space. In any case, it’s important to always contact a professional wasp removal company for help with yellowjackets.