If you've ever been attacked by a swarm of yellow jackets, you might be tempted to believe that these insects are bad tempered. These are insects that quickly mobilize, give chase for several yards, go around obstacles, and even wait--in a frenzy--for anyone who thinks it is a good idea to jump in the water to hide from them. Trust us when we say--they can wait longer than you can hold your breath--unless you're David Blaine. So what makes yellow jackets so angry?
It isn't anger that makes them chase you, sting you, and buzz around like they're losing their minds. The reason yellow jackets act this way is connected to the fact that they are a social insect.
What is a social insect? These are insects that work together for a common purpose. When you see a line of ants bringing food back to their ant hill, it is because they are socially wired to work together in this way. When you see a swarm of termites fluttering around a streetlight, it is because each individual termite is wired to be part of the swarm--sort of like humans are wired to be on the football team or in the band.
Social insects don't just work together to get food for their nests, they also work together to defend them. Anyone who has ever sat on a fire ant nest knows this. Those ants don't care how big you are. They are compelled to work together in the defense of their home.
Yellow jackets are the same way. Each individual in a yellow jacket nest isn't too much of a threat to anyone on its own; but as a group, they can be extremely threatening. And yellow jackets don't have the limitations that some bees have. They can sting multiple times without losing their stingers or dying.
Not only are yellow jackets social insects, they are fiercely social. This is why they are often called aggressive. It isn't because they have bad tempers. It is because they take the whole "social thing" very seriously. Sort of like the head cheerleader who is also the class president and head of the yearbook committee. Some people are just wired to be social.
All yellow jackets are wired to be social, and this makes them aggressive, especially when they feel their nest is being threatened. It is even worse at the end of summer, when they have had all spring and summer to build their populations and grow their nests. This time of the year there are more yellow jackets, and more reason for them to want to protect their hard work.
If you are seeing yellow jackets on your property, call a professional. This is the time of year when yellow jackets are most abundant and most aggressive. Keep your family and your pets safe. Get those nests removed.