Facts About a Yellow Jacket's Life Span

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Yellow jackets can become pests.

Yellow jackets are wasps that have black ad yellow stripes, which often causes people to confuse them with bees such as hornets. Their diets include meat, grubs, insects, sweets and other human foods. Yellow jackets can become pests if nested near homes or other inhabited spaces, as they mate quickly and form large hives. The life span of a yellow jacket is interesting and is designed to reproduce rapidly and efficiently.

Lifecycle Begins in Winter

In winter, the yellow jacket hibernates after fertilization. The queen will hibernate until spring, choosing a location to remain dormant until then. Usually she will choose a place in natural materials such as old logs, trees or man-made structures such as barns and attics. Although the queen will live up to 12 months, the workers only live from 10 to 22 days.

In Spring Come the Eggs

Once spring has arrived, the queen will begin building her nest. She will gather plant fibers and construct a nest by chewing the fibers into a paper-like material. Once the nest is ready for larva, she will lay her eggs and care for them by feeding them regularly. Yellow jacket larva eat insects and meat. The queen will continue to lay eggs over time, and the early larva will reach adulthood and assist her in caring for the other larva.


The yellow jacket larva that can reproduce are laid around August and September. These larva, once they reach adulthood, will leave the nest to begin the reproduction cycle. The females will live after fertilization to build the nest and lay the larva the next spring. The males will die after the females have been fertilized.

Identifying Characteristics

Yellow jackets are small bees that resemble honey bees. They are small in size, approximately 3/4 inch and 0.8 grams. They are colonial bees; some colonies can reach up to 5,000 bees at one time. Although usually yellow and black, they can also be black and white. They have transparent wings and a stinger at the base of their abdomen. Yellow jackets can be aggressive and sting more than once.