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How Long Can a Yellow Jacket Live Without Food?

Last Updated: 16.04.24


If your place has been taken over by yellow jackets and you’re on the lookout for ways to keep them at bay, this post might be of help, so check it out to learn more about these insects and the steps to take to wasp-proof your house. Just like when you use traps for Japanese beetles, you can resort to various solutions to rid of yellow jackets.

One of them is related to the food that may attract them to your house. But what do they eat and how often? Read on for more on the behavior of yellow jackets and what to do discourage them from nesting near your place.


What are yellow jackets like?

Whether you have your own yard or you simply spend lots of time outdoors, you’ve most probably encountered these buzzing flyers, especially when there’s food around. They can easily be mistaken for hornets, though. So, to identify them correctly, there are a few characteristics you might want to know more about.

These large native wasps are social insects living in colonies that include a queen, workers, and males. Yellow jackets come with distinctive body features such as the alternating yellow and black patterns. The female yellow jackets have six yellow segments whereas males have seven.

What also sets them apart is the fact that they don’t have body hair, unlike bees. Plus, yellow jackets have a thin waist and are 0.39-0.62-inch long. The wings are as long as their body, a feature that is also helpful when trying to identify them.



What about their colonies?

As far as the yellow jacket colonies are concerned, they are very similar in structure with honeybee colonies. The colony includes a queen wasp that is the only female that reproduces and lays eggs. Such a queen can produce over 25,000 eggs in just one season and the first yellow jackets born to her are also the ones responsible for feeding her and her future offspring.

Another characteristic that makes these wasps different is that, unlike bees, they live in nests and not in hives. These nests are built underground in secluded areas and a nest usually shelters up to 5,000 yellow jackets at a time. A yellow jacket queen doesn’t use a nest to live in twice. The population of a nest consists mostly of female workers yet it also includes a few males for mating purposes.


Eating habits

Unlike bumblebees and honeybees, yellow jackets have a diverse diet and feed not only on sugar and nectar but also on carbohydrates and protein. Therefore, although they feast on fruits, carbonated beverages, and plant nectar, you might see them having caterpillars, spiders, and flies as well.

They change their eating behavior when they have larvae to care for. This usually happens in the spring when yellow jackets cater to the needs of their larvae and thus feed on protein-rich foods such as caterpillars, flies, and insects.

The sterile female yellow jackets working for the queen are responsible for providing care and food for the queen and its larvae. Therefore, they can travel even 1,000 feet to find food. When the population of a nest grows significantly or it is more difficult to find food, the wasps become more aggressive and can even steal honey from beehives or interfere with humans.

In late summer, they usually return to their sugar and nectar-based diet and thus target flowers with nectar sources that can be easily accessed. Because of their hairless bodies they cannot transfer too much pollen. Still, thanks to the fact that they live in large groups, they do assist with pollination when they reach a flower area.

How long can yellow jackets survive without food

It is difficult to know precisely how long these wasps live without any food. Some people say that, based on their experience, the yellow jackets can actually live even a few days without food. In several cases, after being trapped in a jar for a couple of days, the yellow jackets still lived when released.

However, if we are to think of the life cycle of wasps in general, then it is easy to see that their peak period lasts from spring to fall. During this time, they feed on the nectar, insects, and rubbish found in their living area and thus employ their usual eating behavior.

Things change when food supplies deplete and that happens in the wintertime. If this season finds yellow jackets still alive, it won’t be too long before starvation occurs. Generally, wasps will starve to death in a few days.

The life of a wasp is directly affected by its position in the colony. Queen bees and fertile females live longer, usually through the year whereas female workers live 3 weeks or so.

How to keep yellow jackets away

Despite the fact that yellow jackets do come with benefits such as controlling various pests that can reach your crop, they are what they are and they sting. When they do so, they do it multiple times. If you don’t have any crop and thus you’re not interested in using yellow jackets as an organic pest controller, there are various things you can do to keep them at bay.

One of the easiest and simplest things to do is to reduce their access to food. Since yellow jackets will not hold back from feasting on fruits, carbonated juices, and other foods humans eat, they will target your picnic and outdoor dinners.

Try to avoid leaving such foods uncovered. Have your favorite beverages from cups with lids when you’re outdoors. Open glasses and cans will only attract them. Discard or wash your drink container immediately after you’ve finished your beverage. Also, although it may seem too simple, try not to wear perfumes or colorful clothes as they may attract such wasps.

Fruits will undoubtedly attract yellow jackets and other insects. Removing rotten or overripe fruits from your yard is thus a step you might want to take. Just make sure that you don’t basically move them from one place to another and leave them exposed as it won’t help much. Use sealed plastic bags for that to keep the wasps away.

Make sure your garbage containers are always covered. Opt for units that come with heavy lids that can be tightly closed. If you usually gather lots of garbage, go for several containers to avoid leaving it uncovered.

As we’ve said before, yellow jackets build their nests underground. If you find any rodent burrow in your yard, it is best to cover it as you could easily run into a wasp nest and trigger an attack.

If, despite your efforts, the yellow jackets have still found a way to build a nest near your house, you might want to try pesticides to rid of them. The market now offers various such products that should be used as instructed for efficient and safe results.

Remember to always wear protective equipment when approaching a wasp nest or an area where they live. If a yellow jacket stings and it hurts, you should see your doctor or get professional help.




1) Yellowjacket wasp lifecycle

2) Yellowjacket – useful information

3) What do Yellow Jackets Eat?

4) How long does it take for a wasp to starve to death?

5) The Yellow Jacket Wasp



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