Ah, nature. With giant squids, spiders spinning webs, and fireflies glowing inside of frogs, it never stops surprising us. It seems that yellow jackets—a predatory wasp—are being added to this list. In Alabama, a “super nest” colony of yellow jackets was found in a man’s smokehouse this summer. Scientists are only slightly surprised by this occurrence. In fact, many entomologists (insect scientists) believe that this smokehouse isn’t the only place that’s housing thousands of wasps in muggy Alabama.
According to entomologist Charles Ray, the smokehouse with the super nest contains about 15,000 to 18,000 wasps. For reference, a super nest can be the size of a Volkswagen Beetle, so this is pretty huge. For Ray and other entomologists at the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, what’s surprising is how fast this discovery was made. Super nests aren’t uncommon; typically one or two nests can be found in the summertime. Only in extreme cases are super nests found in high numbers. The last time there was a huge infestation, the System found 90 super nests in 2006.
Yellow jacket ‘super nest’ found in Alabama. 500K wasps in it. UGA expert says says if you see 2 in your yard, there may be 2-thousand nearby. 5pm pic.twitter.com/rmU5kAk4KZ
— Berndt Petersen (@BPetersenWSB) June 28, 2019
Today, there are already 15 super nests spotted in Alabama. Ray and other scientists believe that this number will grow and reach 90 nests, like in 2006. Since, the smokehouse discovery, the System has received more photos of suspected nests. Ray and other entomologists will need to make in person trips to confirm if they are in fact super colonies.
In the meantime, the System is urging residents to call in professionals to take care of the nest extractions. James Barron, the owner of the smokehouse, attempted to get rid of the nest himself with hornet killer. The result? Very aggravated wasps and a subsequent 11 stings. In 2006, three people were seriously injured by yellow jacket attacks. If that isn’t unnerving enough, these wasps are also responsible for almost all stinging deaths in the U.S., too. Basically, you don’t want to mess with them.
I’ve seen those little wasp nests. I get out my little spray can and blast that thing, job well done. What in the heck do you do when you find a yellow jacket “super nest” like this one in Alabama? It has around 15,000 yellow jackets in it. https://t.co/zZlQ0aCdWP pic.twitter.com/iDUgi6t5Ko
— Judd Davis (@BamaJD) June 25, 2019
You’re probably thinking to yourself: wow, that’s a lot of wasps. Scientists agree—wasp colonies don’t usually get this big and are typically 3,000 to 5,000 strong. Right now, the biggest culprit for this high frequency of super nests is warmer climates in Alabama. Warm weather means less queen wasps die during the winter. With an abundance of these queens, who can lay over 20,000 eggs, it isn’t that surprising that super nests are popping up in the south. Man, we get chills just thinking about it.
As the rest of the summer goes on, it will be interesting to see if the super nests do reach 90 or higher. One thing’s for sure—we’ll be taking all the preventative measures needed to keep these feisty guys away from our homes.
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