Alabamans Are Battling Car-Sized Yellow Jacket Nests This Year

A big ol’ yellow jacket nest (Photo: Charles Ray)

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System has warned residents in Alabama, U.S.A. to watch out for “Volkswagen Beetle”-sized yellow jacket nests throughout the state, according to a news release.

Typical yellow jacket nests might contain up to a few thousand workers in a cavity, but if the weather doesn’t get cold enough in the winter to kill off many of these insects, then the nest could live on. This has produced nests containing 15,000 insects or more. Entomologists documented at least 90 of these super-nests in 2006, and this year, there might be even more.

No, thank you.

Yellow jackets are common stinging insects that are aggressive protectors of their homes, and, unlike many bees that die after stinging once, can sting multiple times when threatened. They’re similarly social insects, and typically nest underground or in a hole, though they’re often found nesting in human-built environments.

They’re responsible for nearly all of the United States’ stinging deaths, Alabama Extension entomologist Xing Ping Hu said in a blog post.

Entomologist Charles Ray said that his team has already found two of these perennial nests this year, a month sooner than in 2006, according to the release from the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.

These nests are made from saliva combined with paper or wood fibres, and Hu explained that they are only safe to remove by yourself if they’re small (and you should use pesticides, not ground-polluting gasoline). Otherwise, Ray asked that folks call him and pest control.

Why are these nests appearing? The answer, in short, is climate change. Typically, the colonies die out except for the queen, who goes off to start a new colony each year. As winters warm, more of the wasps are surviving and the queens aren’t dispersing.

Perhaps, if you happen to have a relative who doesn’t believe in climate change, you could explain to them that one of climate change’s consequences is car-sized yellow jacket colonies. I think that’s about as upsetting a consequence as any.

Let's hope these stay far away from Australia, thanks.

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