Actual Size: ½” to 1”

Characteristics: Black or dark brown, usually with yellow markings and stripes; yellow legs

Legs: 6

Antennae: Yes

Habitat: Paper carton nests made up of chewed cellulose found in the ground, eaves, or attics


  • High populations of yellow jackets are common in summer.
  • They will seek out fruit and sugar during the summer months
  • Yellow jackets are also attracted to bright colors and perfume.

Yellowjackets in Iowa

Yellowjackets are the most known wasp in the nation. They are infamous for being aggressive stinging insects that are commonly encountered in the summer and fall. The coloration varies by species, but the most commonly encountered yellowjackets typically have abdomens that are banded with yellow and black. Their legs are yellow in color. They feed on insects including caterpillars, flies and other flying insects. As colonies increase, they are attracted to sweet foods consumed by humans. These beneficial wasps live in colonies with thousands of individuals and tend to nest in residential areas here in Des Moines.

Yellowjacket Habitat

Yellowjackets can be found anywhere humans are found, and nests are constructed of layers of comb made of tiny bits of wood fiber chewed into a paper-like pulp. Yellowjacket nests can be found in many different places in or around a home, including the ground, hollow trees, shrubs, bushes, or internally in attics, hollow walls or flooring, sheds, under porches or eaves of buildings. Unlike paper wasps who only build their nests above ground, yellowjackets will build both aerial and underground nesting sites. These underground sites can contain thousands of insects. When disturbed, these insects will defend their nest.

Yellowjacket Behavior & Threats

In the late summer and fall months, yellowjackets can become more aggressive as colonies grow in numbers. Due to their smooth stinger, they can (and will) sting repeatedly, which is why they’re so feared. Some individuals are more sensitive than others, due to allergic reactions, and should seek medical attention when stung.

Sometimes yellowjackets living in wall voids chew their way through the drywall and enter the structure’s living space. Naturally, the presence of large numbers of wasps flying around the room can be alarming to homeowners. Whether you have notice an increase in yellowjackets near your property or have a nest forming nearby, it’s always safest to contact a licensed wasp removal specialist.