Warning of wasp ‘super nests’ in Alabama

Cheryl Sanders
July 2, 2019

Massive structures dubbed "super nests" each housing up to 15,000 yellow jackets have again begun appearing in Alabama - and experts warn many more of the car-sized units are likely to pop up throughout the state before the perennial invasion is over.

"The queens are the only ones who have an antifreeze compound in their blood", Charles Ray, an entomologist with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, told The New York Times. But when colonies do manage to survive the winter, a super nest, or perennial yellow jacket nest, can form. That's especially fun because wasps like Yellow Jackets are responsible for nearly all the stinging deaths in the United States.

Entomologist Charles Ray issued his warning in last month's issue of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, an outreach organization with Alabama A&M University and Auburn University.

"We have found them attached to home exteriors and other places you might not expect to find yellow jackets", Ray said in a recent ACES release.

'If we are seeing them a month sooner than we did in 2006, I am very concerned that there will be a large number of them in the state.

Wasps built a super nest in an old mattress in 2006. The colony stays strong through the winter, thrives in the warmer weather, and may even contain multiple queens.

Ray thinks Alabama will see many perennial yellow jacket nests this year, and said that in addition to the two already found, there are indications of a third.

According to the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, normal yellow jacket nests are usually located in the ground or a cavity.

Ray said he has counted about 15,000 wasps in a single nest.

Alabama researchers are finding huge - like really, really big - yellow jacket nests across the state. "The nests I have seen this year already have more than 10,000 workers and are expanding rapidly". "And unlike bees, they can sting multiple times".

An above-ground yellow jacket nest. "It is important that people do not disturb the nests". He warns against disturbing the nests and urges people to hire a licensed commercial pest-control operator for removal. For the sake of science, Ray is more willing than most of us to approach the swarm; he asks that Alamabians who find super nests to contact him so he can take photographs and collect specimens.

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