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Quickie ID
black & white spp. black & yellow with spots


The EUROPEAN HORNET, V. crabo, is a very large brown and yellow species with a large black triangle in the center line of gaster tergum 3. Gaster terga 4, 5, and 6 yellow without black markings in the midline. It is also separated from other Vespinae by having a large gap between the ocelli and the back of the head.

Range: Maine to North Dakota, south to Florida and Louisiana.
3 images in Guide from Virginia and North Carolina; further images desirable to show dorsal body, and a closeup of top of head to show ocelli.

The WHITE YELLOWJACKET, D. albida, is said to have the pale marking white, rather than yellow. Gaster black with pale bands at posterior ends of terga 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, tergum 6 with 2 dorsal pale spots. Reddish spots laterally on tergum 2. Body pattern very similar to Vespula intermedia, but the 2 species are separable by the generic characters: wide oculo-malar space in Dolichovespula, narrow in Vespula.
See further comments by Richard Vernier under Northern Yellowjacket.
Range: Northern Maine to Northern British Columbia is the southern limit of the species.
No images in Guide; need doral views, lateral views, face view of live specimens.

The NORTHERN YELLOWJACKET, D. arctica, does not build a nest but moves into the nest of either D. norvegicoides or D. arenaria and becomes a parasite of these species, using the host’s worker caste to rear its young. There is no worker caste in this species and so all individuals are either queens or males. Some text on the biology of this species in Akre et al but it is not included in the key and no description of the species is given. Akre et al show a photo of a Northern Yellowjacket queen on the comb of a host Aerial Yellowjacket, gaster pattern looks almost identical to that of Norwegian Yellowjacket.
Richard Vernier kindly supplied the following comments that distinguish arctica/albida/norvegicoides:
- the small black space between the two white spots on the temple (upper) and the gena (lower), smaller than the lower white spot (a D. albida queen would have a distincly larger black interspace, larger than the lower white spot, just like the D. norvegicoides also in this guide). Moreover, this lower white spot is often very small or even lacking in D. albida.
- the extension of the white on the pronotum, particularly along the front carina, absolutely excludes D. albida. That one would have only a straight, linear stripe, just like D. norvegicoides except the white color.
Also note the thickness of the genae and the uncomplete, limited to the lower part, black stripe on the clypeus. D. albida has one identical to D. norvegicoides, i.e. complete.
The patterns on the urotergites, especially the first almost lacking white and the diverging lateral lobes on the second, are also typical for D. arctica. In this respect too, D. albida much more resembles D. norvegicoides.

Range: Newfoundland to Alaska, south to Georgia (in mountains) in east and California and New Mexico, absent from much of mid-west.
1 composite plate in Guide, plus face view. Need images of living insects, dorsal views, lateral views, face views.

The AERIAL YELLOWJACKET, D. arenaria, is best identified initially to genus, it’s a Dolichovespula and therefor has a wide gap between the eye and the mandible; best seen in a lateral view of the head. Within the genus it has a distinct body pattern: the yellow bands on the posteriors of the terga 1 and 2 are deeply incised by the black markings usually to the extent of completely interrupting the yellow bands. The yellow genal band on head behind the eye is continuous but may be deeply notched midway along its length.

Range: Newfoundland to Alaska, south to Georgia (in mountains) and California and New Mexico in the west.
6 images in Guide, plus 3 of nests; further images welcome.

The BALDFACED HORNET, D. maculata, is a large wasp with the terga 1-3 usually black and the pale markings on the following segments white/pale yellow. See Info page for discussion of pattern variation and sexual dimorphism.

Range: Newfoundland to Alaska, south to Florida and California, absent from much of the mid-west.
many images of queens, workers, and males in Guide, plus 3 nests.

The NORWEGIAN YELLOWJACKET, D. norvegicoides, is similar to the Aerial Yellowjacket but the yellow bands on terga 1 and 2 are continuous and the genal band behind the eye is widely interrupted midway.
See further comments by Richard Vernier under Northern Yellowjacket.

Range: Newfoundland to Alaska, south to Georgia (in mountains) and California and New Mexico, absent from much of mid-west.
1 composite plate in Guide; photos of live individuals needed, lateral of head and dorsal of body.

The SAXONY YELLOWJACKET, D. saxonica, is a widely distributed Palearctic species and may be present in North America. It appears to be almost identical to the Norwegian Yellowjacket but differs in nest architecture and possibly colour pattern and behaviour. Akre et al seem sceptical as to its occurrence in NA.

Reply to Mr. Eaton - References about V. flavopilosa
In the textbook edited by Akre et al. in 1981 (a yellow, soft-covered book), a sketch of a worker's abdomen from above can be found at p. 22, bottom right, together with V. germanica and V. maculifrons. A comprehensive summary of all species' abdomens, at a reduced scale, is available at p. 23. The text devoted to this species can be found at p.61.
Anyway, there is nothing about males and queens - a non-specialized environmental pratician, to whom this textbook was dedicated, being likely to be confronted mainly with workers. Hoping to have been useful.

V. maculifrons queen
Is there any need for additional photos of a queen V. maculifrons? I was able to get several shots of one, but seeing as there are already several nice photos of queen eastern yellowjackets in the guide, my images may just be redundant. So in other words, are there any important characteristics of queen V. maculifrons not already photographed that would be useful to include in the guide?
… Richard Leung, 30 April, 2005 - 1:59am
moved here, by TT, from the overcrowded general Photo Focus Group page

Hi Richard
Tony D's photo #11531 of a dorsal view of a Queen shows the 'classic' pattern, it would be difficult to get a better image than this. However:
- a dorsal photo of a Queen showing any variation from this pattern is needed.
- also, I would to see a lateral view of the head and thorax to show the genal band behind the eye and the oculo-malar space.
- also, I would like to have a frontal view of the face showing the face pattern and the colour on the underside of the 1st antennal segment.
- I have a book on UK insects that uses face patterns to separate the various Vespula species. I'm wondering whether wasps recognize species by face pattern - they have huge eyes on the face, and one can only wonder why they need to be so large.
- also, any image from a State/Province that is not yet recorded for the species is needed to fill in the map.
Anthony W. Thomas

Photo uploaded
I've added a composite image showing a dorsal view of the abdomen and images of the head. Please add whatever information you believe is important.

As for the facial patterns, I know that Polistes dominulus, the European paper wasp, use black markings on the face in establishing dominance among the females. Of course, the social structure between Vespula and Polistes is substantially different since any female in the latter group can potentially reproduce.

Refer to: Tibbets, E.A. & Dale, J. "A socially enforced signal of quality in a paper wasp," Nature Vol. 432 pp. 218-222

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