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Species Vespula maculifrons - Eastern Yellowjacket

Eastern Yellowjacket, queen - Vespula maculifrons - female Eastern Yellowjacket - Queen - Vespula maculifrons - female Maculifrons queen? - Vespula maculifrons - female Ground Nesting Yellow Jacket - Vespula maculifrons - female eastern yellowjacket chewing grass stem - Vespula maculifrons Eastern Yellowjacket - Vespula maculifrons - female Wasp - Vespula maculifrons - female  Eastern Yellowjacket - Vespula maculifrons
Classification
Kingdom Animalia (Animals)
Phylum Arthropoda (Arthropods)
Subphylum Hexapoda (Hexapods)
Class Insecta (Insects)
Order Hymenoptera (Ants, Bees, Wasps and Sawflies)
No Taxon (Aculeata - Ants, Bees and Stinging Wasps)
Superfamily Vespoidea (Yellowjackets and Hornets, Paper Wasps; Potter, Mason and Pollen Wasps and allies)
Family Vespidae (Yellowjackets and Hornets, Paper Wasps; Potter, Mason and Pollen Wasps)
Subfamily Vespinae (Hornets and Yellowjackets)
Genus Vespula
Species maculifrons (Eastern Yellowjacket)
Synonyms and other taxonomic changes
Vespa maculifrons Harris, 1853. Name was never formally published, thus not valid taxonomically.
Vespa maculifrons de Buysson 1905.
Subsequently moved to new genus Vespula. (1)
Explanation of Names
The specific name maculifrons is from the Latin 'macula',for spot, and 'frons', literally forehead, referring to the typical spotted marking on the head of this species.
Size
Workers about 8.5-12 mm (smallest at start of colony cycle), males about 12-15 mm, queens up to about 18 mm. This species averages smaller in all castes than its close relative, Vespula flavopilosa.
Identification
Key to eastern Nearctic Vespula species in the Identification Atlas of the Vespidae of the Northeastern Nearctic Region. (2)
Key to Nearctic Vespinae genera in the Identification Atlas of the Vespidae of the Northeastern Nearctic Region. (2)

Workers and males lack free spots on the abdomen. Wide anchor-shaped black marking with narrow base on first abdominal tergite is diagnostic. Queens have free black spots on abdominal tergites, but show the distinctive anchor-shaped marking on T1 rather than the diamond-shaped marking of V. germanica. Xanthic individuals do occur, more commonly in southern part of range, and these can sometimes have yellow marks on the mesoscutum.
Range
The Eastern Yellowjacket (Vespula maculifrons) is one of the most abundant yellowjacket species in North America east of the Great Plains.
Habitat
Species is extremely adaptable. Forests, meadows and forest edges, including urban and suburban environments. Like all Vespula, colonies are normally subterranean, or sometimes at ground level in stumps and fallen logs. In deciduous forest, nest entrances frequently situated under tree roots or adjacent to logs on the ground. Of 40 colonies confirmed as this species in western Pennsylvania, 34 were subterranean, 3 were in exterior walls of buildings, 1 was beneath a tree stump, 1 was in the roots of a fallen tree, and 1 was located in an exposed shale outcropping (B. Coulter, pers. ob.). This total is likely somewhat biased towards natural habitats, as many nests are found in cavities in structures in urban areas.(3)
Season
Annual colonies typically founded by overwintered queens in May-June, and persist into November-December, surviving longer in the South.(3) Most colonies perish after a single season, but this species occasionally develops polygynous perennial colonies in the southern portions of its range.(4)
Food
Adults consume nectar and other fluids. Larvae are fed masticated arthropods or scavenged meat by adults.
Life Cycle
In spring, mated female (queen) constructs a small comb and nest envelope. The queen frequently brings food to developing larvae until first workers emerge from pupal cases and assume all colony duties except egg-laying. In late summer, workers construct special larger cells to rear new queens Males develop from unfertilized eggs and mate with the new queens, which then leave the natal colony to hibernate among litter, in logs, and in soil. The old colony declines and all remaining individuals (founding queen, males, workers) perish.(5)
Remarks
This very yellow (xanthic) male wasp has proved difficuilt to ID to species:

It is either an Eastern or Yellow-Haired Vespula flavopilosa
Print References
Kimsey, L.S. & Carpenter, J.M. (2012): The Vespinae of North America (Vespidae, Hymenoptera). Journal of Hymenoptera Research 28: 37–65; doi: 10.3897/JHR.28.3514.
Peterson's Field Guide to Insects plate 16, p.348 (6)
National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Insects & Spiders plate 486, p.836 (5)
Internet References
Species page in Species-ID.net
The Insects of Cedar Creek, Minnesota has photos of pinned specimens and information.
University of Florida's Featured Creatures has a lot of info on Vespula species, including a color pattern chart to identify between worker, queen, or male.
Works Cited
1.Checklist of the species of the subfamily Vespinae (Insecta: Hymenoptera: Vespidae)
Carpenter, James M., and Jun-ichi Kojima. 1997. Nat. Hist. Bulletin of Ibaraki Univ. 1:51-92.
2.Identification Atlas of the Vespidae (Hymenoptera, Aculeata) of the Northeastern Nearctic Region
Matthias Buck, Stephen A. Marshall, and David K. B. Cheung. 2008. Biological Survey of Canada [Canadian Journal of Arthropod Identification].
3.Yellowjackets of America North of Mexico
Akre, R.D., A. Greene, J.F. MacDonald, P.J. Landolt, and H.G. Davis. 1980. U.S. Department of Agriculture.
4.Reproductive plasticity in yellowjacket wasps: A polygynous, perennial colony of Vespula maculifrons
Ross, Kenneth G., and P. Kirk Visscher. 1983. Psyche 90:179-191.
5.National Audubon Society Field Guide to Insects and Spiders
Lorus and Margery Milne. 1980. Knopf.
6.A Field Guide to Insects
Richard E. White, Donald J. Borror, Roger Tory Peterson. 1998. Houghton Mifflin Co.