Aerial yellowjackets

The nests of Dolichovespula are usually aerial, although species may nest below ground on occasion. Dolichovespula are not attracted to protein food and usually forage for live prey; they will occasionally scavenge flesh from animal carcasses. Colonies are usually initiated in early spring and the first workers appear in about25 days. Cells formales and new queens are produced in the colony in late summer; reproductives emerge approximately 22 days following construction of the firstrepro-ductive cells. Colonies begin to decline after the production of reproductives. Typical nests have 300-1500 cells, but vigorous D. arenaria and D. maculata colonies may construct over 4300 cells. Mature nests usually have 2-6 combs and the peak number of workers ranges from 200 to 700 individuals. The paper covering of the nest consists of distinct laminar sheets, and the paper is resistant to water damage. Mature colonies of D. arenaria have 9-16 layers at one time and 35-40 over the life span of the nest. D. maculata nests may have 1-9 layers at one time. The outer diameter of the nest does not indicate colony size, because the number of layers and space between layers (usually 2-3 mm) vary greatly between nests. Construction material includes wood from willow, cottonwood, oak, cedar, birch, and weed stems. Dolichovespula build nest envelopes with laminar paper strips, in contrast to Paravespula species, which build nest envelopes that are scalloped. As the nest expands, layers are constructed on the outside as inner layers are removed. Unlike other yellowjacket species, Dolichovespula tend to incorporate obstructions such as leaves, twigs, and dead workers into the envelope layers.

Parasitic yellowjacket, Dolichovespula arctica This species is an obligatory social parasite in colonies of D. arenaria and D. norvegicoides.Itreliesonthehost workers to care for its young. The queen invades a host nest before the first brood of workers has emerged, and after about 24 h it becomes established as a nestmate. The D. arctica queen may be aggressive and dominant with its hosts, and eventually kill the host queen before her worker production is completed. This shortens the life span of the colony and reduces the size of the mature colony. The host colony produces no new queens, but in some cases the workers rear a brood of males. This species is distributed throughout northern North America, from Alaska to Arizona and east to the northeastern seaboard.

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