Its the return of the yellow jackets | SierraSun.com
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Its the return of the yellow jackets

The fishing was only fair on a trip to Frenchman Reservoir this past week, but we did see large numbers of yellow jackets. We were amazed by the abundance of them during our lunch break and while fishing.Yellow jackets (Vespidae) are yellow and black with jointed bodies. Their stings are potent and painful. Young females overwinter and each starts a new colony that lasts one season.Nests are made of paper chewed wood with combs of cells to house eggs and larvae, which are reared on fragments of insects, meat, sweets, etc. Many small females perform work of the social colony. Males are produced late in summer from unfertilized eggs.There are two species that are common in the Sierras. Polistes (abdominal petiole long, narrow) makes a flat, uncovered nest attached by a short stem, the cells opening downward. Colonies number up to 200. Vespula (petiole short, abdomen appears broad at base) makes nests below ground or above ground (typical).In the Sierra Polistes fuscatus occurs up to 8,000 feet and the Vespulas are common everywhere. The common yellow jacket (Vespula pennsylvanica) is a ground nester. In some years it is excessively abundant one per square yard in places. The cause of such outbreaks is not known. In these times they are annoying to vacationers and picnickers.Yellow jackets do not pursue people; they merely seek bits of food from the table or lunch box. They sting only when molested or threatened.Many years ago while living on the west shore of Lake Tahoe, I was splitting wood in my backyard. My two German Shepherds came out with me and one made the mistake of getting too close to a ground nest of yellow jackets. His black fur suddenly had lots of yellow all over him as he wildly snapped at the biting insects. A garden hose helped get the wasps off of him, but he was certainly in a bit of discomfort.Protection from them can be had by screening a home or picnic area. When plagued by the wasps outdoors, remaining calm and avoiding direct contact is the most effective deterrent. As the above example illustrates, one can inadvertently walk into a nest.Wasps may be destroyed by spraying or dusting with household insecticides into the holes of nest openings at night. Doing this at night makes certain that all of the wasps are in the nest.If you are stung, stings can be treated with an ice pack and then a paste of water and bicarbonate of soda. If stung many times, or if the reaction is severe, you should seek immediate medical attention.Many people are allergic to bee stings. If you are one of these people you should carry a bee sting kit with you at all times when you are venturing into the outdoors. You will need a prescription from your doctor for one of these.Carrying Benadryl may be helpful if it is not too severe of a reaction. Many times this will not work if the person is highly allergic, thus the best thing to do if you know that you are allergic is to seek immediate medical attention.As mentioned earlier, there was quite an abundance of these critters during our lunch at Frenchman. It appears that this may be one of those years where we will see quite a few. Be prepared when you venture outdoors.Bruce Ajari is a Truckee resident and regular fishing columnist for the Sierra Sun and other area newspapers.


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