Many people believe that yellowjackets constitute an insect group that is distinct from wasps and hornets, but this is not the case, as all yellowjacket and hornet species are wasps. There exists around 75,000 documented wasp species in the world, making them the largest group of insects within the Hymenoptera order. Bees and ants follow wasps as the most species-rich Hymenoptera insects. Ants are comprised of 12,000 documented species, while bees comprise around 20,000 species. Researchers now believe that wasps may be the most abundant insects on the planet, as there exists a vast number of tiny parasitic wasp species that have yet to be documented. This would mean that the actual number of wasps on earth would exceed the number of beetles, which includes 380,000 documented species. Wasps are split into many groups based on their appearance and behavior. For example, yellowjackets are comprised of 35 to 40 wasp species belonging to the Vespula and Dolichovespula genera, and each species is social, predatory and black and yellow in appearance. The most common species in the northeast US include: the common yellowjacket, the German yellowjacket, the eastern yellowjacket, the forest yellowjacket and the aerial yellowjacket.

At the moment, the eastern yellowjacket is the most abundant yellowjacket species in the northeast, but this native species is quickly being displaced by the non-native German yellowjacket. Both the German and the eastern yellowjacket are categorized as pests for their habit of nesting in and around structures, but the majority of German yellowjackets nests are constructed below the ground. The common yellowjacket has been known to nest within the walls of houses, but these wasps typically nest within hollow logs in forested areas. Although the common yellowjacket is not considered an indoor pest, these wasps can be a nuisance in and near both food processing plants and food dispensaries. Many sources claim that the forest yellowjacket’s habitat is limited to forested areas in southeastern Canada, but this species has been encountered numerous times within Massachusetts and other New England states. This species dwells within rural regions but can sometimes pose a threat to people in urban areas. Aerial yellowjackets are distributed nationwide and they are known for being indoor pests. The eastern and aerial yellowjacket species are by far the most frequent home invaders in the northeast, and their nests are commonly located in wall-voids and attics.

Have you ever encountered a wasp nest attached to your house?