Saturday, October 16, 2010

yellowjacket nest ~ 10/16/10 ~ Elkhorn Slough

western yellowjacket
Vespula pensylvanica

I make no apologies for not getting a closer picture of this yellowjacket nest. It looks like a converted rodent burrow. Please note, someone came along before me and clipped away the dried grass from around the nest.

I used to scoff at picnic people who made a ruckus trying to get away from a perusing yellowjacket (distinctly different than pursuing). Inwardly, I huffed even more when they called them "bees" and were afraid they'd "bite". Really, it's fascinating to watch these scavengers chew away a hunk off your BBQ plate. Generally if you don't bother them, they won't bother you, er, too much.

Last year I got stung for the first time, on the head, while hiking at Nisene Marks near Santa Cruz, one of the only times I wasn't wearing a hat while hiking. It got caught in my hair and my friend could not get it out for me. Panic. For lack of better words, I now have a healthy respect for these multi-stingers.

Andy has experienced multiple stings during organized trail runs, something I admit I had little sympathy for... until last year. Part of the reason is, during an organized run with hundreds of people, there is simply too much commotion that disturbs the ground nests near the trails, often under the redwoods; the folks who are not in the lead get whammed with a defensive ground hive. For the other part, September to November is a major yellowjacket stinging season around here. Oh my, we've made emergency stops at the store to pick up baking soda, expensive sting-ease solutions, etc. None of them worked any better than another. It seems you just have to wait out the pain.

ps 10/18/10 - I should mention how I came to ID this particular yellowjacket to be V. pensylvanica, which interestingly enough is not found in Pennsylvania or anywhere east of the Rocky Mountains (as an aside, I find it curious that many species in the U.S. get divided based on this particular mountain range). I found several sites that mentioned this is the only Vespula species that has a complete yellow eye-loop/eye ring. Huh? For a clear visual of the eyes, compare V. pensylvanica with V. germanica. Although, I did find one site that mentioned V. sulphurea (California yellowjacket) also has the complete yellow eye ring, but it also has bold stripes on its thorax.


Joe said...

The thing I hate about them is when you run over their nest with a mower and make them mad. They can really get nasty then.

texwisgirl said...

Youch!!! Neat nest/hive though!

Anonymous said...

I got stung by one as a teenager same way - it got caught in my long hair and stung my throat. Ice and benadryl good for the swelling.

troutbirder said...

That hole looks down right dangerous. Just the sort of thing my big puppy Baron would stick his nose in to investigate. Yikes!

Curbstone Valley Farm said...

We have a number of these nasties on the farm, although it seems occasionally we've had someone rip their ground nests open. Skunks perhaps? When we add bees to the farm next spring we need to be especially aware of any nearby yellowjacket nests, as apparently they have a reputation for breaking into, and robbing honeybee hives (of brood, not honey).

Nature ID said...

I'm really enjoying all your comments. Thank you.