Identification, Images, & Information
For Insects, Spiders & Their Kin
For the United States & Canada
Clickable Guide
Moths Butterflies Flies Caterpillars Flies Dragonflies Flies Mantids Cockroaches Bees and Wasps Walkingsticks Earwigs Ants Termites Hoppers and Kin Hoppers and Kin Beetles True Bugs Fleas Grasshoppers and Kin Ticks Spiders Scorpions Centipedes Millipedes

Upcoming Events

See Moth submissions from National Moth Week 2023

Photos of insects and people from the 2022 BugGuide gathering in New Mexico, July 20-24

Photos of insects and people from the Spring 2021 gathering in Louisiana, April 28-May 2

Photos of insects and people from the 2019 gathering in Louisiana, July 25-27

Photos of insects and people from the 2018 gathering in Virginia, July 27-29

Photos of insects and people from the 2015 gathering in Wisconsin, July 10-12

Previous events


Species Vespula vidua - Widow Yellowjacket

Yellowjacket species - Vespula vidua Vespula maculifrons(?) doing something strange... - Vespula vidua V. vidua queen gathers wood  - Vespula vidua - female Large yellowjacket - Vespula vidua - female Yellowjacket - Vespula vidua - male unknown wasp - Vespula vidua Vespula vidua Unknown yellow jacket - Vespula vidua
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
Family Vespidae (Hornets, Yellowjackets; Paper, Potter, Mason, and Pollen Wasps; and Allies)
Subfamily Vespinae (Hornets and Yellowjackets)
Genus Vespula (Ground Yellowjackets)
Species vidua (Widow Yellowjacket)
Other Common Names
Ground Hornet
Widow Yellowjacket
Synonyms and other taxonomic changes
Vespa vidua de Saussure, 1854(1)
Subsequently reclassified in genus Vespula.
Explanation of Names
The specific name vidua is Latin for "widow", possibly a reference to the largely black coloration of this species compared to other yellowjackets.
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)

A large yellowjacket with extensive black markings on bright yellow background. Second abdominal tergite with expansive black, generally without pale spots (but see atypical individual here). Free spots often present within yellow fascia on 4th and 5th abdominal tergites.(3) Abdominal tergites including and distal to T2 with only sparse pubescence (more densely hairy on similar V. acadica). Females with black clypeal markings separated from subantennal markings, often broken into three spots, but sometimes more complete.(2)

Queen (♀♀) Worker (♀) Male (♂)
In Canada, from southern Ontario east to New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. In United States, found in northeast from New England coast west through Mid-Atlantic and Great Lakes region to Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, and North Dakota, and south along Appalachians and Piedmont to Georgia.(3) Range extensions from BugGuide submissions in North Dakota and Missouri (new state record).
Of three colonies discovered in SW Pennsylvania, two were subterranean, and one was located in the wall of a structure (B. Coulter, pers. ob.)
Adults feed on nectar and other fluids. Larvae are fed masticated arthropods by adults. This species is a member of the Vespula rufa species group, and is considered strictly predatory, although Richter and Colvin (1994) documented V. vidua scavenging pieces of freshly dead caterpillar.
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.
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.