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Southern Yellow Jacket - Vespula squamosa - female

Southern Yellow Jacket - Vespula squamosa - Female
Fort Bragg, Cumberland County, North Carolina, USA
May 2, 2006
I think it's a queen.

Fine shot of her, too. This species is an opportunistic social parasite. The queens are perfectly capable of founding free-living colonies of their own, but often prefer to enslave small colonies of the eastern yellowjacket, Vespula maculifrons. At the very least, competition for nesting sites can be extreme, and a queen southern yellowjacket has no qualms about dispatching a queen eastern yellowjacket. If there are already workers in the nest, they will 'adopt' her as the new queen and raise her offspring. There was an excellent article about this in Natural History Magazine back in the '80s or '90s.

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