Indentifying ground dwelling, social, stinging insects ... vespidae of some type?
I'm afraid I don't have a photograph (yet anyway), but I'm hoping you can help me identify this bug following a lengthy description. I live in rural, southern West Virginia (heart of the Appalachians, at about approx 1800 feet -- a stone's throw from the New River Gorge Bridge, FYI). I have about 1.5 acres of yard that I mow; and lately have had a problem with stinging insects.
I'm assuming they are some type of yellow jacket, although they don't fit the physical description of any that I've found while researching on the Web. But behaviorally, they are dead-on.
These buggers (that's probably an old pun around here; sorry) live in a hole in the ground; you see them constantly going in and out during the day and there are usually a few flying about near the entrance. They aren't particularly aggressive; If I walk slowly I can walk within a few feet of the nest entrance and not get attacked/stung. There is a crab apple tree on the property, next to the house, and the rotting fruit attracts all sorts of bugs, including the standard run-of-the-mill yellow jacket, but I've never had a particular problem with them or any other type of wasp, even when cooking out. But if I run over the nest entrance with the lawn mower, the bugs in question get all bent out of shape, and I get drilled several times --not a huge horror-movie swarm or anything -- but you get the idea.
I just noticed this one nest for the first time last month; this past weekend I found two more on the other side of the yard. They are not near the house, and not an issue 'cept for when cutting the grass. As I'm going to be gone the whole month of October, and it is close to winter anyway, I'm probably going to just let it go (hoping the grass won't need cut when I get back in November -- that will all depend on Mama Nature).
But I'm curious to know what they are -- their response to the nest being disturbed, and the fact that they nest under ground in a colony, and are more aggressive at this time of year (I'm assuming the nests have been there since last spring), suggests yellow jackets, but these are not like the big species of yellow jackets you see at picnics and or around dumpsters and garbage cans at busy parks (or at the bottom of a crab apple tree). These are small; I'd guestimate about 1cm or 1/4 inch in length (much smaller than your typical food-attracting yellow jacket), and appear to be more orange than yellow.
I'm sorry I can't give you a more detailed description, but after this past weekend of grass cutting and getting stung four times, I'm not eager to get close enough to be examining wings and color patterns and so forth.
So if anyone has any ideas/information, I'd appreciate it. Just like to know what type of yellow jacket it is, or if it's something else ...