Genus: Dolichovespula Rohwer, 1916
Subgenus: Dolichovespula Rohwer, 1916
Species: Dolichovespula arenaria (Fabricius, 1775)
Common names: common aerial yellowjacket, sandhills hornet, or common yellowjacket
Dolichovespula arenaria is a species of social paper wasp that is widely distributed across North America.
The common yellowjacket is abundant throughout boreal North America, Alaska to New Mexico and Arizona at higher elevations. It is one of the most common yellowjackets found building aerial nests in eastern North America.
Distribution map of Dolichovespula arenaria by GBIF: https://www.gbif.org/species/1311820
To identify the genus:
To identify the species:
The genus Dolichovespula contains 18 species worldwide (Archer 2006). Four species are found in the Nearctic region, including D. alpicola, D. arenaria, D. maculata, and D. norvegicoides (Kimsey and Carpenter 2012).
This yellowjacket is a predator of other generally large-bodied arthropods, including grasshoppers, crickets, caterpillars, spiders, flies, lacewings, and even lady beetles. They will sometimes scavenge from vertebrate carcasses as well.
Dolichovespula arenaria nests can be arboreal or subterranean (Moisset 2005). Nests are initiated in the spring by an overwintering queen. Nest building starts as early as March in California. The nests are usually built above ground, from a few centimeters high to the tops of trees, houses, or sheds. However, some individuals build nests in cavities in the ground. Dolichovespula arenaria nests are built from paper-like material made from plant fibers and saliva. The brood cells are all enclosed in an outer paper shell. The queen lays her eggs in the cells, and when they hatch she feeds the larvae until workers can take over foraging and nest construction. The colony continues to grow to about 1,000 cells until mid-summer. Colony lifespan is usually 3–5 months depending on latitudes. Colonies usually produce fewer than 2000 adults (Archer 2006). Colonies of D. arenaria tend to specialize in either producing males or queens, though sometimes colonies will go through a male phase followed by a queen phase.