Extension Personnel Monitor for Giant Yellow Jacket Nests Around State
Alabama Cooperative Extension System county coordinators and agents are being enlisted to help insect experts learn what is causing enormous yellow jacket nests throughout central and south Alabama.
Last week, Charles Ray, an Extension entomologist and research fellow with Auburn University’s Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology, reported only 16 nests across the state. However, after extensive media coverage of these super-sized nests, he says the number of unconfirmed large nests has now grown to about 25.
Ray also has inspected a nest extracted from a mattress (pictured right) found in a Macon County barn. He and fellow researcher, Dr. Xing Ping Hu, an Extension entomologist and associate professor of entomology and plant pathology, counted 22 queens within 16 square feet of comb. Ray estimates a normal-sized nest contains only about 2 square feet of comb and supports only one queen.
Plans are also underway to destroy the mammoth nest found in a weather-beaten 1955 Chevrolet parked under a shed in Elmore County.
“We plan to cover the car with a tarpaulin or polyethylene sheeting and then apply carbon dioxide to ensure that the insects will be clean enough for genetic analysis,” says Ray, who adds that specimens from the dead nest will be sent to Georgia Institute of Technology researcher Dr. Michael D. Goodisman for genetic analysis.
Meanwhile, Ray is encouraging Extension regional agents and county coordinators to collect as much information as they can about the super-sized nests in their regions of the state. Based on a suggestion by Charles Simon, a multi-county Extension coordinator in south central Alabama, Ray is recommending that agents buy inexpensive traps from their local home supply stores and farm cooperatives to collect these specimens.
Digital pictures would help too, he says.
Ray is particularly interested in determining if Southern yellow jackets are the culprits behind the gigantic nests. He’s all but certain that they are, though he’s still looking for more supporting facts.
“There are only two species of the insect in southern Alabama, and I’ve never seen the other --- the eastern yellow jacket,” he says. “Everything I’ve seen so far points out to Southern.”
Some agents already have purchased inexpensive yellow-jacket traps at their local home supply stores or farm cooperatives to assist with these efforts. Simon (pictured left), for his part, already has set traps in north Covington County.
He says the traps are relatively easy to use.
“You just pour water into the trap, hang it on a tree near the nest, and the workers will find it,” says Simon, who adds that it’s the safest way he knows to collect samples.
Simon is no stranger to these super-sized yellow jacket nests. In fact, he says that although they’re rare, they’re not unheard of in extreme south Alabama, where winters are comparatively mild.
Posted by Jim Langcuster at July 17, 2006 04:45 PM