Alabama Sees Massive Yellowjacket Nests Starting to Grow yet Again

Yellowjackets, or large type of vespid wasps are swarming in the thousands in Alabama, creating nests the size of Volkswagen Beetle cars.

Imagine walking out of your home to the image of a wasp nest hanging above your front porch. Now imagine tripling, or quadrupling the size of that nest and having tens of thousands of wasps living and buzzing around your house.

These nests are called perennial yellowjacket nests.

There can be a whopping 15,000 worker yellowjackets or vespid wasps living in one nest at a time. And on top of that, the nest can grow to the size of a Volkswagen Beetle car.

This is happening right now in Alabama, and not for the first time but for a second time!

Alabama Sees Massive Yellowjacket Nests Starting to Grow yet Again
Yellowjacket nest on a house. Source: Charles Ray/Alabama Cooperative Extension System

Alabama saw the same phenomenon back in 2006, where the largest recorded perennial nest housed 15,000 worker yellowjackets.

Entomologist Charles Ray predicts a similar buzzy summer for Alabamans.

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Perennial yellowjacket Nests

Typically, yellowjacket nests are in the ground or in a cavity, and house between 4,000 to 5,000 workers. Nests usually remain this size, relatively small, because over the winter many workers don't survive, so the queens disperse and create numerous smaller nests. 

However, when winters are milder and more food supplies are available, that's when many survive. In fact, researchers have noted that multiple queens end up residing in the same colony.

This is exactly what has happened over this past winter.

Alabama Sees Massive Yellowjacket Nests Starting to Grow yet Again
Yellowjacket queen. Source: Charles Ray/Alabama Cooperative Extension System

 In time, this creates larger colonies, and thus a perennial giant nest is born. 

Ray pointed out that perennial nests look almost nothing like regular yellowjacket nests. 

"These perennial nests may be several feet wide and have many thousands of workers, far more than an average nest. We have found them attached to home exteriors and other places you might not expect to find yellowjackets," said Ray. 

Larger numbers in 2019

"We confirmed two nests in May and have indications of a third," said Ray.

"This puts us several weeks earlier than in 2006, when we identified the giant nest (with 15,000 yellowjackets) on June 13."

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Alabama Sees Massive Yellowjacket Nests Starting to Grow yet Again
Yellowjacket nest filling a car. Source: Charles Ray/Alabama Cooperative Extension System

Ray is preoccupied by the fact that this year may see more yellowjacket perennial nests than back in 2006, when over 90 'super nests' were discovered. 

"The nests I have seen this year already have more than 10,000 workers and are expanding rapidly," he continued. 

Tips if you find a 'super nest'

Do not touch the nest is Ray's first piece of expert advice. 

"While these giant nests often appear less aggressive than smaller colonies, it is important that people do not disturb the nest." 

Alabama Sees Massive Yellowjacket Nests Starting to Grow yet Again
Yellowjacket nest in a discarded mattress. Source: Charles Ray/Alabama Cooperative Extension System

Next, call a professional to remove the nest by contacting licensed commercial pest controllers. 

The sound of buzzing seems to be ringing in our ears as we learn all about these giant perennial yellowjacket nests.

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