April Fools, Yellow Jacket Queens

Mother Nature pulled a lethal April Fools joke on 2016’s yellow jacket queens. My son found a dead V. maculifrons, or Eastern Yellow Jacket, on his hoodie this weekend. A series of black dots on the yellow bands of the abdomen revealed its royal status. But why was it dead? The wasps mate in fall, killing off the male, and only the mated queens overwinter. The rest of the colony starves or is killed by the cold. The mated queens emerge in spring and look for a place to build a new nest and lay eggs. However, an April cold snap, like we’ve had in the Eastern U.S. this year, can kill off the queens who had already emerged. Fewer stings for 2016? Maybe, but just in case, keep an eye out for nature’s home remedy for bee and wasp stings, plantain leaves.

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