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Species Vespula consobrina - Blackjacket

Blackjacket - Vespula consobrina - female Wasp IMG_4651 - Vespula consobrina Vespula consobrina - Blackjacket Female - Vespula consobrina - female Yellowjacket Wasp - Vespula consobrina Non-aggressive black and white wasp - Vespula consobrina - male Vespula consobrina? - Vespula consobrina Vespinae - Vespula consobrina Vespinae - Vespula consobrina
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 consobrina (Blackjacket)
Synonyms and other taxonomic changes
Once treated as a form of the Palearctic Vespula rufa.
Explanation of Names
The specific name consobrina is Latin for a maternal first cousin (feminine), probably in reference to the close relationship to Vespula rufa, with which V. consobrina was once considered conspecific.
Queens about 17 mm, males 15-16 mm, workers 10-12 mm
Key to eastern Nearctic Vespula species in the Identification Atlas of the Vespidae of the Northeastern Nearctic Region. (1)
Key to Nearctic Vespinae genera in the Identification Atlas of the Vespidae of the Northeastern Nearctic Region. (1)

A small to large black and white (or very pale yellow) wasp. with pale posterior bands, of various widths, on most of the abdomen segments (urotergites) (Figs A, A1). The compound eye almost touches the mandible (jaw). This feature places this insect in the genus Vespula.

I have seen only 9 queens from NB with 1 presented on the Guide (Fig B). There is just 1 image of a live queen in the Guide (Fig C). All the 9 NB females have a pale face with the black spot located in the lower half; touching the bottom of the face in 3 specimens (Fig B) and ‘free’ in the other 6. The upper half of the pale genal band behind the eye is present in all 9 queens. A smaller pale spot in the lower half is present in 7, but absent in 2 (Fig B). Antennae are all black (Fig B). The humeral band on the side of the thorax varies from broad (Fig B) to being about 50% of the width of that in Fig B. Dorsally, all 9 NB queens are similar to the one shown in (Figs A,B); note that the 1st tergite lacks any pale band. The Pennsylvania queen (Fig C) has an interrupted pale band on tergite 1 and greater amounts of pale on the subsequent tergites, and isolated black spots on tergites 4 and 5 (Fig C).

Worker females
I have seen only 3 workers from NB; there is one image in the Guide from E Central NB (Fig D). 1 of my NB workers has an almost complete central black spot (Fig E), the other 2 resemble the queen’s face in Fig B. Antennae, genal band, and humeral band are similar to the variations seen in the queens. My 3 workers lack a pale band on tergite 1 (Fig A,E). The worker from E Central NB (Fig D) has an interrupted pale band on tergite 1 and in that respect resembles the Pennsylvania queen.

I have seen 3 males from NB; there are images of 4 males in the Guide. Two of my males and 2 in the Guide (Figs F, F1) have a black spot on the lower half of the face. The 3rd NB male has this spot broken into 3 small spots (Fig G). All NB males have small pale dashes on the ventral surface of the 1st antennal segment (scape), but these are not immediately obvious. The pale genal band is complete (Fig H). All males I have seen have a centrally interrupted band on the posterior margin of tergite 1, and pale bands on the posterior of tergites 2-6 (Figs A,H,I,J,K, K1).
Northern, including much of Canada but not reaching Alaska. Coastal in the western USA reaching southern California, south in the mountains in the east.
A species of forests. Nests are subterranean, typically in rodent burrows. May be above ground in logs, rock cavities, walls of houses. Nests are small, usually less than 100 workers.
Nests are short-lived with queens and males produced as early as September
Feed on sugary substances, otherwise feed on live prey only.
Similar species
The Blackjacket, is one of 5 black and white/pale yellow Yellowjackets. Two of these 5 species however have reddish patches laterally on the tergites: on tergite 2 in Dolichovespula albida; on tergites 1 and 2 in Vespula intermedia. The Blackjacket most closely resembles the Baldfaced Hornet and the Northern Yellowjacket . The Baldfaced Hornet (Fig L, left) has an entirely black tergite 2 whereas the other 2 species each have a pale posterior band on tergite 2. Thus it is the Blackjacket and Northern Yellowjacket that are almost identical in coloration.

Blackjacket vs. Northern Yellowjacket:
1] Queens
Dorsally these 2 queens are almost identical. However, in the Blackjacket the pale posterior bands on tergites 3, 4, and 5 are complete, i.e., uninterrupted in the mid-line, (Fig L, right); in the Northern Yellowjacket each pale band is interrupted by a black extension from the anterior part of the segment (Fig L, middle ). Other differences occur on the head. On the face, the 1st antennal segment is completely black in the Blackjacket and extensively pale in the Northern Yellowjacket (Fig M ). The oculo-malar space is narrow in the Blackjacket (a character of the genus Vespula), and wide in the Northern Yellowjacket (a character of the genus Dolichovespula) (Fig M). Both species have an incomplete genal band. In the Blackjacket the lower spot is small or absent (Fig B), in the Northern Yellowjacket both spots are of equal size separated by only a small black spot.
2] Workers
Worker Blackjackets are distinctive, no other yellowjacket has their body pattern (Figs D,E).(NB: Northern Yellowjacket queens and males are very similar to Blackjacket queens and males but the Northern Yellowjacket does not produce a worker caste).
D. norwegica never has tergum 1 completely black. D. adulterina is similar but V. consobrina females don't have free black spots on any of the terga.
3] Males
Male Blackjackets are almost identical to male Northern Yellowjackets, even to the extent of having a pale patch on the ventral surface of the scape that is absent in the female Blackjackets. However ther are subtle differences in the tergites. Male Blackjackets have the pale posterior bands on the tergites wider than those on the Northern and they are not interrupted in the mid line. Male Northern Yellowjackets have the pale bands on the tergites almost completely interrupted medially by black posterior pointing extensions (Fig N).
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.
Internet References
Species page in
Works Cited
1.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].