Identification, Images, & Information
For Insects, Spiders & Their Kin
For the United States & Canada

Virginia, USA
Size: Can't fit in 5gal. bucket
This shows a bottom view of the same nest. Obviously, the opening on this V. crabro nest is much bigger than a small entrance hole on a typical D. maculata nest.

Images of this individual: tag all

thats a big nest! Just curious, where was this nest found, underground??(I have never been able to find a vespa crabro nest.)

Hello, vulgaris.
Actually, the nest was found inside a shed in Virginia last year and then it was collected & mailed to me after it was abandoned. In fact, I am lucky enough to have an awesome video of this monstrous nest when it was still active! Obviously, it was towards the end of the season and the colony was in its reproductive phase when it was filmed because a close-up of a male is shown perched on the outside wall of the shed at one point in the video. Anyway, here is the video:

Enjoy! :o)

Great video!
I don't know who took it, but i wouldent want to get that close to an active nest that large!
I guess Sheds, outhouses, and buildings are becoming the more attractive place for a queen hornet to start her city!

Thanks for the comments.
This species is relatively docile. Their bad reputation is much worse than their true nature. So, I don't think that the guy shooting the video was in much danger from the hornets attacking him as long as his movements were slow & deliberate, and also, as long as he didn't breathe on the nest nor block the insects' flight path! This species will generally allow a person to move in fairly close to observe them (like Polistes generally do) as long as he/she uses common sense and shows respect towards the hornets. If you do this with any type of social wasp colony, then PLEASE be careful (These fascinating creatures are so much fun to observe for literally hours at a time!).

Actually... places such as hollow trees, inside sheds, barns, and outhouses are typical locations to find V. crabro nests. These nests are normally NOT found underground.

Thanks for that information!
I have heard that V. crabro is more docile than most other yellowjackets. The only time that i have realy seen one was in the spring, i saw a queen in my workshop looking around on the ceiling for a place to nest. Dad diddent want a nest in there, though, so i cought her, took some pics, and let her go before she started her nest. I never knew where the typical nesting site was for them, i just asumed they built their nest under ground, like vespula does.
And yes, i agree that social wasp colonies are fun to watch. I enjoy standing out of the way of the active v. vulgaris nest in a log right outside my worshop and watching the literally constant stream of them going in and out. Some of them come out with such a big ball of dirt that they can hardly fly!

Additional docile wasps...
Not all yellowjacket species are aggressive.

On one hand, the Dolichovespula species are uncharacteristically docile for "typical" yellowjackets (such as D. maculata and D. arenaria). Then again, D. maculata is NOT your typical yellowjacket! LOL!!! They will also generally allow you to move in fairly close to observe them as long as you use common sense and show respect. It is very important that a person needs to know exactly what he/she is doing and also how to act around an active nest (such as NO sudden movements, learning how to "read" the insects' warning signs, etc...) because each colony has a different temperament. I DON'T recommend the average person approaching a wasp nest!

On the other hand, there are some Vespula species which are notoriously aggressive (such as large colonies of V. squamosa... which can be particularly nasty!). Then again, as I've said above, each colony is different. Ultimately, it is up to you to decide which colony is docile enough to allow close observation and which one isn't. Proceed with extreme caution and know what you are doing!

Of course, all these species can be aggressive when defending themselves and their nests.

Each colonly DOES have it's own temperment...
Most D. maculata nests are very docile, but not the one in my back yard! Whenever i even get near it, they will start running into me, just bouncing off of me but not stinging. I took this as a warning and left before it got to more than a warning! As for large V. squamosa nests, i don't know if their range extends to where i live, i have never seen even one. It would be cool if they are here, though, because i want one of those huge nests that you have! I did whitness just how agressive the nest of V. vulgaris i was talking about can be when my older brother thought it would be funny to play around with them. He kicked the log and started spraying them as they came out, but they came out with a vengence after a few of them died. He got stung 6 times and there seemed to be a cloud of angry yellowjackets filling the air. (of course i was worried about him getting stung TOO many times, but he got what he deserved)
After i saw how seriously they could act when threatened, i had a better respect for them. AS for my brother, well he diddent bother them again, lol.
I have also learned that they HATE quick movements, and will attack anything that moves too quickly around their log.

It was very wise of you to heed that warning! When you are too close to an active D. maculata nest, the guards will bump into you without actually stinging as a warning just to let you know to back off and give the colony some space. I've had this happen to me one time while I was near a D. maculata colony because I made the mistake in wearing a black shirt (Never wear dark clothes near a wasp nest (especially black) since dark colors seem to irritate these insects! Black bears are one of the main predators of wasp colonies. White is the best color to wear while you are observing wasp colonies in my humble opinion. This cuts down on your chances in being attacked. This explains why beekeepers wear white!). Anyway, I call this their "head-butt warning" because the wasps are literally flying into you head first and bouncing off! LOL!!! It is like they are trying to "push" you away from their nest. This type of warning is NOT exclusive with D. maculata though. Vespula species, Vespa species, and even honeybees all use the exact same type of warning. Polistes is another type of wasp which gives you plenty of warning before they start attacking. With Polistes though, their warning is to face you, stand very tall, and raise their wings as if to say, "Back off or else I will sting you, buster!" So, social wasps typically give warning before actually attacking... thank God!

By the way, I think that V. squamosa's range DOES extend through most of Pennsylvania. This state is pretty much the northern-most part of this wasp's range. However, the HUGE perennial nests of this species are found further south since the climate is milder. Unfortunately, this means that you most likely won't have any luck in locating a multi-year yellowjacket nest in your area. The good news is that two of my largest D. maculata nests came from Pennsylvania! Here they are:

those nests realy are huge!!! The one in my back yard is nowhere near the size of those two, but its still bigger than my head.(which makes it one of the largest nests that i have ever personally found.) I was hoping you could answer a question for me. Is it even possible for a V. Vulgaris nest to overwinter? I do not want to see that nest die, so I was hoping that if once the weather starts getting cold and I keep a constant supply of suger water out there for them, they would make it through the winter. But i don't even know if its possible for them to overwinter with some of the winter temps that we get here! Are there any other ways of helping them make it though the winter?

Also, i saw the picture that you have of an aerial yellowjacket nest with a worker and a queen. How did you preserve them?

I knew you'd be impressed.
If you think those two nests are huge, I have another D. maculata nest which is even BIGGER. It measures an incredible 3 feet tall!!! Here ya go:

I am aware of only one case of a perennial V. vulgaris colony and it was discovered in California (Source: USDA, Agriculture Handbook 552, Akre, The Yellowjackets of America North of Mexico, Page 70). Nonetheless, the perennial nests which are sometimes found in this country are nearly all built by V. squamosa. Unfortunately, you live too far north for colonies to survive the winter (unless the world continues to grow warmer due to climate change). The only thing I can tell you, to improve your chances in obtaining a monster nest, is to move out of Pennsylvania once you are old enough to do so and move into an area where perennial nests sometimes do occur. In the meantime though, perhaps you might be lucky enough to find a massive D. maculata nest (like the ones I currently have in my collection) while you are living in Pennsylvania!

Regarding the D. arenaria queen & worker, I got them freeze-dried from a scientist. However, I am sure that you can just as easily dry them out naturally to preserve them. Speaking of which, I got a large nest full of immature wasps which is freeze-dried (In this case, the nest NEEDS to be freeze-dried or else the soft-bodied immature wasps will rot and smell bad!). With the adult wasps though, you can just dry them out naturally.

I diddent even know D. maculata nests could get that big!!
Wow! I am inpressed!! Did you find this nest and collect it or did somebody send it to you? I wouldlove to have seen this nest when it was active! I wonder what makes them get so large. Usually when I find a somewhat big nest, it has the same amount of combs in it as a normal sized nest, the hornets just went crazy adding layers to the shell. Why do they do that?

I'm sorry to hear that there can't be a perennial nest here. I have grown fond of the V. vulgaris nest in my yard, i feed them catfood every day and they even got used to me coming, and come to me to get the food before i even set it down.( don't have time to do that any more though, because of school:() I was pretty sure that it could not survive the winter here, but i had to ask.

You have a nest in your collection with all the larvas still in it!? That must look cool:)

Thanks for the answer about drying wasps out. I don't have any to dry out right now, but am planning on getting some to go with the nests in my display. (by the way, did you get the pics that I e-mailed you?)

One more question. There is a tree in my yard(sorry, don't know what kind) that produes something that the hornets absolutly LOVE. They are all over the leaves licking them to get the "suger" , if thats what it is. Every time i walk under the tree, there are always clusters of hornets falling out of the tree fighting. They act very aggresive towards each other(biting/stinging). They must be from different colonies, but why are they so aggresive to each other???

Yep, they sure can get that big! :o)
My 3-foot-tall D. maculata nest was sent to me from somebody in South Carolina (Please keep in mind that this nest is the result of only ONE season... unlike the huge perennial V. squamosa nests!). My nests are concrete evidence of the monstrous sizes which they can sometimes obtain. I am NOT aware of any D. maculata nests which are larger than 3 feet tall. I would say this is most likely the MAXIMUM size for this particular species... and this is RARE to say the least! The reason why some nests grow so big is because the colonies which live in them are larger than an average colony. I think one of the factors which plays into this is food supply. An excellent food supply means more wasps in a colony (which results in a larger nest). As you already know, a mature D. maculata nest is typically the size of a basketball (Anything larger than this is exceptional!).

To answer your question regarding why do bald-faced "hornets" add so much envelope to their nests... I think it has a lot to do with the wasps' response to climate changes (temperature, rain, etc...). Vespula germanica is another species of wasp which is typically known for nests with thick envelopes. In fact, I am aware of numerous cases where large V. germanica nests were located in people's attics. However, most of the bulk in these nests was made up of thick envelope (in response to high temperatures in the attics). Interestingly, there was only a small number of combs in these large nests. Speaking of combs, the most I've ever seen or heard about inside a D. maculata nest is five. I am not aware of any D. maculata nests with more than five combs (Despite this, I have a feeling that one or two of my largest D. maculata nests might have more than five combs!). I have a large, dissected D. maculata nest which is two feet tall and it has five combs. Here it is:

I am NOT surprised that the wasps which you had mentioned are aggressive towards each other. Wasps from different colonies often fight because they are very territorial. Plus, another cause of conflict between different colonies is a food source. So, I am sure the wasps are fighting over the valuable food source on your tree. This is normal behavior. These colonies are competitors.

Yep, I have a large freeze-dried D. arenaria nest which is full of larvae and pupae. It DOES look cool! :o) Freeze-drying is the ultimate way to go in preserving mid-season nests. Speaking of freeze-drying, I have a mature Polistes annularis (red wasp) nest which I glued a swarm of freeze-dried adult wasps on and then hung it from my kitchen doorway to make it look like the nest is still active. It freaks out some of my visitors! LOL!!! Here it is:

Hmmmmmmm... That's strange! Unfortunately, I never received your email. Would you mind sending it again? Please send it to this address:


Your disected nest is a perfect example....
It shows the combs inside, and all of the seemingly extra envelope that they added on.( thats a nice nest, and it must have been hard to cut away the envelope so neatly.) That nest put the one that I have to shame! The one that I currently have(I am getting another one soon) has only two combs! It is the smallest mature nest that I have ever seen!

Im not surprised that you said the aggresion that I saw amoung them was normal . In every fight, there was always at least one abnormally large hornet(from the big nest across the yard) and one small hornet. It always seems that the big hornets start the fight. I don't know why the hornets from the nest in my yard are so large, but they are at least two times the size of the other hornets. I know they are not true "hornets", but they are sure large enough to be considered true hornets!

That nest that you have with the dried wasps on looks cool!!:) It looks like it is still active! I can only imagine how scared people must get!lol! Do you have to have a special freezer to freeze dry them??

By the way, I do have an abnormaly large nest that you might be interested in seeing the pics of! It is a polistes nest( sorry, I found it in the winter when all the wasps were dead and don't know which exact species its from) and it is bigger than my hand!!!( but not quite as large as your giant polistes nest!) It is the only one of it's size that I'v ever found and I don't know if there will be any more like it!( its REALY old(mabey 6 yrs?), and not in the best condition, but definitly worth keeping!) And I don't know how large aerial yellowjacket( dolichovespula arenaria) nests usually get, but I have one with 6 layers of comb! I'm thinking this is abnormally large because none of the other aerial yellowjacket nests that I have found had that many combs. Is this considered large??

I will try to e-mail you the pics of it and the other nests that I have. Unfortunatly the darned AOL E-mail is not working(it hasent been for the past 3 days, I HATE AOL!!) so I don't know when you will get the pics. If only I could figure out the problem I am having with this site so I can post them here for everybody to see!

I am glad that you really like my dissected nest. Actually, it was NOT too difficult to neatly dissect it. I just took my time cutting it open & then trimming the edges with a pair of scissors. For your information, the envelope measures an incredible 6 inches thick at the bottom of the nest (below the combs)! Here are a couple more photos of this nest:

Yeah, there seems to be some size variation of insects within the same species... which I think is normal. For example, a scientist had told me that D. maculata workers in the eastern part of this country can be the size of D. maculata queens in the western part. Of course, you WILL get some variation from location to location whether it be size, coloration, markings, etc... There can even be some variation within the same colony!

As you should already know, D. maculata are EXCELLENT fly catchers. In fact, an interesting part of American history is that the pioneers actually hung ACTIVE D. maculata nests inside their homes to help control the flies! Taking down dragonflies is no problem for D. maculata. Plus, there is one observation which I've read about where this species even tried to prey on a hummingbird!!! Obviously, the bald-faced "hornet" is a big wasp in a small wasp's body! Hahahahaha!!! You gotta love it!

Despite the fact that D. maculata is an atypically large, black and white yellowjacket, it does NOT act like a typical yellowjacket at all! In fact, I think this species acts more hornet than yellowjacket. For example, various Vespa species often prey on other bees and wasps. Well, D. maculata itself often preys on other yellowjackets (mainly members of the genus Vespula). I think one of the reasons why D. maculata is very "hornet-like" in its behavior is because it is making up for the lack of true hornets (Vespa) on this continent and it is filling a niche which Vespa would have occupied otherwise. It is taking the place of true hornets. In other words, it is the "hornet" of North America. Very interesting...

By the way, I've read somewhere (BugGuide, I think) where a person called D. maculata a "wannabe hornet"! LOL!!! Sure... this species is an overgrown yellowjacket, but it is a hornet in its behavior!

Thanks for the kind words regarding my red wasp display. :o) Yeah, I think it makes a wonderful showpiece for my collection. In response to your question regarding freeze-drying, my specimens were already freeze-dried when I got them. I don't think the average person can do this because I think special equipment is required to freeze-dry things. Despite this, you ARE in luck! There are some taxidermists who use the process of freeze-drying as one of their preservation techniques. So, if you ever want to have some specimens freeze-dried in the future (such as mid-season nests filled with immatures), then you can always start contacting the local taxidermists in your area until you find one who uses the freeze-dry technique.

Despite the fact that D. arenaria nests are smaller than D. maculata nests, they typically have MORE cells. Yes, D. arenaria nests can have more than five combs. Any D. arenaria nests with more than five combs are considered large (So, you have a nice nest with 6 combs!). I have an exceptionally large D. arenaria nest which measures an incredible 17 inches tall (before I dissected it) and 8 1/2 inches wide! However, it has only four combs.

Sure, I would love to see your Polistes nest (and the rest of your nests)! If you think your Polistes nest is old, I have one which was collected in 1980 (So, it is actually 27 years old!!!). By the way, you had mentioned my GIANT Polistes nest. You must be talking about this monster which is literally the size of a dinner plate:

Enjoy! :o)

If you are having problems posting your photos here for everyone to see, then I highly recommend that you post your photos on VenomList (after you become a member):

VenomList is my main hangout spot on the internet. In fact, this is where a lot of wasp enthusiasts and wasp keepers go to have discussions on subjects such as nest relocation, wasp keeping, etc... and also post their own photos & videos. This is cutting-edge stuff! Please become a member and start posting there. Thanks! By the way, Tleilaxu hangs out there too (Ya know, the guy who you've been having a discussion with regarding keeping wasps as pets!). I am "Carolina_wolfie" over there.

Just to let you know, I have NOT received your email yet.

Thanks for that awsome site!!!
It is an awsome site, and I did create an acount there. But, unfortunatly almost ALL of my images of the nests in my collection, active nests in my yard, and just pics of wasps that I realy wanted to post turned out to be too large to upload. Man!!! They were taken on my brand new camera( a REALY expensive professional one) that I got for my birthday. If I want to post any images, of my nests or anything else, im going to have to go back and take them all again on my old camera that is realy low quality. I have some awsome zoomed in shots of vespula vulgaris in mid flight that i would never be able to take with my old camera:(

But.. I will go back and take all new pics of my nest collection with my old camera to post there. By the way, I am vulgaris there(couldent come up with a creative name). I still can't e-mail you my pics, though, because my e-mail is still not working. I had to use my moms to create an account on the vemom list website.

I'm glad to know that at least ONE of my nests is considered large.(the D. arenaria nest) Watch for my pics on Vemon list! I will try to get them posted sometime tomarrow(I still have to go back and take all new pics)

Im glad to find a place to meet other social wasp lovers and people that share the same interests as me!!

You are very welcome.
I am glad that I am able to help you out! :o)

By the way, don't you have settings on your professional camera which allows you to adjust the size/resolution on the pics which you shoot???

Oh, I forgot to mention that 7 combs is the most I've heard about any D. arenaria nest having.

One more thing... I would totally drop AOL and go with a different service provider if I were you!

I do have settings to adjust the size of the pics that I shoot on my camera....but I havent quite figured everything out on the camera yet. It came with 5 different instruction manuels(its a very complicated camera compared to my old one) and I diddent finish reading them all yet. Im sure there is a way to adjust the size, I just have to figure it out. In the mean time, however, I will post images taken on my old camera. I am dissapointed that I diddent know that they would be too big from the begining, because it took alot of patience to get some of the photos that I took. I had to sit next to the nest for literally over a half hour to finally get the shot of the yellowjacket in mid flight.

Its good to hear that my aerial yellowjacket nest is close to the biggest one that you know of!

The only reason that I have AOL e-mail is because it came free with the instant messenger that i got. I don't like AOL at all, and have a completly different internet service. I will see if i can get it changed....

A couple of other points...
If you are having problems with your email not working, then I highly recommend that you set up a Yahoo email account. This way, you can send and receive as much email as you want WITHOUT all the hassle & aggravation! :o) Here ya go:


I wish you good luck in figuring out the settings on your new camera!

Yes, I completely agree with what you said in your previous post. It IS very wonderful to have a place like VL where wasp enthusiasts like us can go to hangout and have awesome discussions (some are cutting-edge) with other wasp enthusiasts! :o)

i do now have yahoo e-mail, and i sent you an email with pics of some of my nests! But again, some were too large to send(at least thats what it said) and I couldent send you all of them.

Thanks for wishing me luck with my camera! I still havent figured it out yet, but I will soon enough.

Never mind about the email:(
I just got an email message that says "Hi, this is the qmail send program at Im afraid I wasent able to deliver your message to the following adress. This is a permenant error, iv given up. sorry it diddent work out". I dont know who sent it, or what it means, but i sure am dissapointed!:(

Every time i send you an email, about 2 min later that message comes up.

I don't know what to tell you because everybody else who send me emails don't have problems. I get them all. So, the problem must be on your end somehow. Hmmmmmmm... May I ask which email address that you are using for me? Are you sure that you are spelling it correctly? The reason why I am asking is because of these people's answers to this problem:


Also, what else does it say below the message?

I have an idea! If you continue having email problems and you can't figure out a solution, then I highly recommend that use another email service such as Hotmail. Here ya go:


Get an account at Hotmail, try sending your email from there, and see what happens.

I got hotmail
and i could only fit 2 images per email, so i sent you multiple emails, let me know if you get them!

Just got an email saying "this is an automatically generated delivery status notification. Delivery to the following recipiants failed:". i dont know if you will get any of the emails.....

Oh, and I tried posting images on Vemon list that were taken on my old camera and they were still too big(more than 500k). So, it might take a while before you see my images on there.

cropping your pics should help with the size also.

One can hardly speak of an "entrance hole". Rather, in many V. crabro mature nests, the building of the lower part of the envelope tends to be in delay, compared with the building of the lower combs. This is harmless for the brood, because at this late summer season the nest does not need a so thorough thermal insulation than in early stages.
Conversely, workers often build a secondary envelope at the opening of the cavity where the nest is located. And this one lets only a true, relatively small "entrance hole".

Oh, one more thing...
I went back and edited my description for this photo. Thank you again for the "heads up"! :o)

Another interesting name for it...
Thanks for further explaining things to help people better understand what I was trying to convey in my description. I couldn't have said it better myself! By the way, there is a pest exterminator who I've corresponded with in the past and he would call this opening a "trash hole" because this is where the hornets would dump their trash from (such as fecal material, dead hornets, etc...) since there is typically a bad-smelling, maggot-filled mess directly beneath V. crabro nests.

"Trash hole" seems quite appropriate.