Pollinator of the Month: Common Aerial Yellowjacket (Dolichovespula arenaria)

The common aerial yellowjacket (Dolichovespula arenaria) is a medium-sized wasp (14-17mm) that has a distinctive yellow and black pattern on its body. It is found throughout and is native to Canada and the United States, commonly found in forested areas. They belong to the Subfamily Vespinae. Other members of the Subfamily Vespinae found within Calgary include the western yellowjacket, prairie yellowjacket, german yellowjacket, bald-faced hornet, blackjacket, parasitic aerial yellowjacket, northern aerial yellowjacket, arctic yellowjacket and Alaska yellowjackets.

They are important pollinators who contribute to the production of certain fruits. They visit flowers to feed on their nectar, and pollen attaches to and is transferred via their fluffy hairs. In addition to being pollinators, the common aerial yellowjacket can also be a biological control agent as it helps reduce populations of pests that damage crops. However, through its predation it may also eat beneficial insects. It can also transmit a disease called fire blight to potatoes.

The aerial yellowjacket is eusocial, which means it lives in a colony with a division of labour and cooperative care of the young. The colony consists of a queen, who is the only fertile female, and workers, who are sterile females. The queen has the ability to control the sex of the offspring through laying fertilized or unfertilized eggs (fertilized eggs produce females and unfertilized eggs produce males). She typically starts by producing female workers as they will help build the nest and collect food, however as winter nears she starts producing males and future queens. The queens overwinter.

The aerial yellowjacket builds its nest by transforming wood into a paper-like substance, which is why they are considered paper wasps. The nest is usually located above the ground, on trees, shrubs, or buildings, hence the name “aerial”. Sometimes, however, the aerial yellowjacket may build a subterranean nest. Compared to ground yellowjackets (Vespula sp.), common aerial yellowjackets are less aggressive and do not have the same preference for meat.

Dolichovespula has Latin origins, meaning long-little hornet. This comes from their long faces but little overall size when compared to “true hornets” (Vespa sp.). Arenaria comes from the Latin word meaning sandy and likely refers to the habitat they were found in.

a common aerial yellowjacket resting on a plant with clusters of pink flowers

Posted on May 23, 2024 09:22 PM by kiarra13 kiarra13


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