German Yellowjacket (Family Vespidae)

German Yellowjackets (GYJs) are European wasps that arrived in the northeastern U.S. in the early 1970’s and in Wisconsin a few years later and are clearly marked by nature’s warning colors, yellow and black. Their nests are started in spring by a queen who has spent the winter sheltered in a crevice, leaf pile, or building. She chews plant material, mixes this cellulose with saliva, forms it into nest and nursery, and starts laying eggs. When the first workers emerge, they enlarge the nest, care for the larvae and queen.

Potter/Jug-builder Wasp (Family Vespidae)

Most wasps live solitary lives, and when the time comes to lay eggs, they build a variety of types of nursery chambers, provision them with food for their potential young. This small, black mud dauber, also called the Jug Builder Wasp, throws a pot the shape of a small (about ½ inch) jug. She commonly builds several jugs in a row on a small branch, finding and transporting, one by one, small globs of mud.

Great Golden Digger Wasp (Family Sphecidae)

Great Golden Diggers Wasps are identified by the golden pubescence on its head and thorax, its reddish orange legs, and partly reddish orange body. GGDWs make vertical tunnels, constructing several cells at the end of each tunnel. Then they go hunting—katydids and crickets are favorite prey; a wasp that is big enough to hunt, sting and paralyze, and fly off with a katydid is a sizeable wasp.

Ichneumon Wasp (Family Ichneumonidae)

Ichneumon wasps are members of a large and very confusing family with over 3,000 species north of Mexico. Ichneumons frequently have a white or yellow band on their antennae and they may be “twitchy.” Some ichneumons have impressive-looking “stingers,” which are actually ovipositers. Ichneumons lay their eggs on moth or butterfly caterpillars or in the larvae of their distant relatives. The adults drink nectar and water.

Paper Wasps and Hornets (Family Vespidae)

Paper wasps chew on pieces of cellulose (bark, paper, etc), mix them with saliva, and spit out paper. The queen starts the nest, laying down the first cells and caring for the first brood of workers. When they mature, the queen retires to a life of egg-laying leisure, and the workers care for her, make hive cells, maintain the inner and outer walls of the nest, and forage for insects and pollen.