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Western Yellow Jacket

Scientific Name:

Vespula pensylvanica




Wide variety of natural and disturbed areas


Native throughout the United States west of the Rockies, southern Canada and northwest Mexico


Least Concern (IUCN Red List)

This species is


to the Truckee Meadows.


Western yellow jackets are ground-dwelling wasps. These wasps look a lot like honeybees in size and appearance with yellow stripes on their black bodies, but unlike honey bees they have no hairs and a much ‘sleeker’ look to their wings and body (up to 1.5 centimeters long). If you ever come face to face with the western yellow jacket look for the solid ring of yellow around its eyes! These wasps are omnivorous foragers, they eat both living prey and scavenge for dead animals, as well as sugary substances like nectar. Every spring the queen will start a new nest. The first eggs the queen lays turn into the first of her workers, and they continue to make the nest bigger throughout the summer and fall. In the winter, the workers will die off and the queen will go into hibernation. These wasps build their nest out of a paper-like substance, whereas bees excrete a waxy substance to build their hives.

Fast Facts:

  • Nests sizes can range from several hundred wasps up to over 10,000. 

  • Unlike bees, wasps can sting multiple times. Ouch!

  • These wasps are found all across northern and central America and are considered invasive in many of these territories



Kevin Livingstone (research & content)

Alex Shahbazi (edits & page design)

Last Updated:

March 27, 2024 at 1:48:22 AM

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