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Yellow jacket workers

AUBURN UNIVERSITY, Ala. – Reports of perennial yellow jacket nests continue to come in from across Alabama. One of these nests could be one be of the oldest professionals with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, have ever seen. Charles Ray, an Extension entomologist, confirmed a massive yellow jacket nest in a trailer in Baldwin County, Alabama.

Oldest Nest Identified in Alabama

“This colony is at least three years old, and it’s the first nest of this age that I have documented,” said Ray, who is also a research fellow in Auburn University’s Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology.

“More than two cubic yards of nest was visible in the Baldwin County nest,” he said. “Additionally, there were satellite nests scattered around the interior perimeter of the trailer’s skirting.

Yellow jackets are a species of wasp. Entomologists believe that milder winters, combined with an abundant food supply, allow some colonies to survive and enter spring with much larger numbers. These perennial colonies often have multiple queens.

A normal yellow jacket nest is usually located in the ground or a cavity. However, they will build nests in any void, including structures. A nest may peak at 4,000 to 5,000 workers that do not survive cold weather. This leaves the queens to disperse and form new colonies in the spring.

Perennial Nests Discovered in Multiple Counties

Ray warned in late June that 2019 could bring a bumper crop for perennial yellow jacket nests. These latest nest discoveries are validating his concerns.

In addition to the Baldwin County nest, Ray has confirmed perennial nests in Bullock, Chilton, Clay, Coffee, Dallas, Marion, Montgomery, Shelby and Talladega counties.  The nest in Marion County marks a new northernmost point for a super nest in Alabama.

Thanks to viral media coverage of the original story, Ray has received reports of suspected nests in another seven counties.

“I want to caution everyone not to approach any suspected nests,” Ray said.  “The Shelby County nest is along a county road, and you can see that people have been throwing bottles and other objects at it. Disturbing the nest makes the yellow jackets much more defensive, and people run the very real risk of being stung.”

In 2006, yellow jackets seriously injured three people after receiving multiple stings.

“The body responds to a sting, but most people have no idea if they will have a life-threatening allergic reaction,” he said. “It is important to leave these nests alone.”

Let Professionals Handle Removal

Homeowners should not attempt to remove these nests.

“It is a task only for licensed commercial pest control operators and some commercial operators will not tackle these giant perennial yellow jacket nests,” Ray said.

He adds that when a yellow jacket stings someone, it effectively tags its victims with an alarm pheromone.  That pheromone may last 10 or more hours, making the victim a potential target for other yellow jackets.

Ray encourages people to contact him by email at raychah@auburn.edu so he can document the nest and collect specimens. Ray and his partners will do further research into the genetics of the colonies.

More Information

For more information on perennial yellow jacket nests, read the earlier article from Alabama Extension: Massive Yellow Jacket Nests Appearing Again In Alabama.

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