Thursday, October 24, 2013

And 10,000 of Their Closest Buddies

About a month ago, I noticed some activity at one of our weep holes in the foundation of the house.
Don't know what a weep hole is, read about it here.

Moving on.

Yellow Jackets.
Many Yellow Jackets.

In case you don't know, they're just as fun as Africanized Bees, but they can sting you over and over again without dying.

For some reason, this group is fairly docile for Yellow Jackets.
We mow the grass, unmolested by wasps.
The dogs graze on grass in the flowerbed right under the entrance (yes, there are weeds in my flower beds) and are equally unmolested by wasps.
I think that's why we've left them (for the most part) for the last month without really, really trying to get rid of them.
We've hit the weep holes with wasp spray and 'bug bombed' the attic.
I suppose we decided that once winter comes, they'll die off and that will be that.

Luckily (unluckily??) for me, I can't leave well enough alone and decided to read up on my house guests.
Turns out that they won't all be dying off for the winter.
My wall provides a perfect place for overwintering Queens to celebrate Christmas.

Here's what Wikipedia has to say about it:
Yellow jackets are social hunters living in colonies containing workers, queens, and males (drones). Colonies are annual with only inseminated queens overwintering. Fertilized queens are found in protected places such as hollow logs, in stumps, under bark, in leaf litter, in soil cavities, and man-made structures. Queens emerge during the warm days of late spring or early summer, select a nest site, and build a small paper nest in which they lay eggs. After eggs hatch from the 30 to 50 brood cells, the queen feeds the young larvae for about 18 to 20 days. After that, the workers in the colony will take over caring for the larvae, feeding them with chewed up food, meat or fruit. Larvae pupate, then emerge later as small, infertile females called workers. By midsummer, the first adult workers emerge and assume the tasks of nest expansion, foraging for food, care of the queen and larvae, and colony defense.
From this time until her death in the autumn, the queen remains inside the nest, laying eggs. The colony then expands rapidly, reaching a maximum size of 4,000 to 5,000[2] workers and a nest of 10,000 to 15,000 cells in late summer. At peak size, reproductive cells are built with new males and queens produced. Adult reproductives remain in the nest fed by the workers. New queens build up fat reserves to overwinter. Adult reproductives leave the parent colony to mate. After mating, males quickly die, while fertilized queens seek protected places to overwinter. 

photo credit:

This is what I imagine it looks like, just on the other side of that weep hole.
I keep thinking that if my reading is correct, this number will dwindle once we get our first hard freeze.
That there'll be a few Queens left in the wall and that's it.
That we'll plug up all the weep holes with steel wool and the Queens won't be able to escape come Spring.
Trouble is, we know they have access to the attic because of another place in the wall that we've seen them coming and going.

I have no idea why we are being so complacent about them.
Maybe because no one has been stung?

It appears that we're out of our minds.
Funny how that becomes crystal clear, not that I've written it down.


  1. You know, I am a bug person and even a stinging insect person but I do not tolerate careful with them...

  2. Yellow-jackets are not an insect to mess with. they may not be bothering you right now but eventually they will. I would get an exterminator in and get rid of them. Just my thoughts!