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Yellowjackets Roll Tiny Meatballs For The Babies

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Why is that yellowjacket crashing your BBQ? Well, she wants what you’re having: burgers, hot dogs, fish and turkey. But she doesn’t eat them herself. Her nest’s larvae need that protein to develop. So she carves up your dinner and makes teeny-tiny meatballs for them..


Ah, time for some grilling.

But what’s up with this bee helping herself to my burger? Shouldn’t she be off pollinating something?

She’s often called a “meat bee,” but she’s not a bee at all.

She’s a western yellowjacket — a type of wasp.


You can tell her apart from a bee because she’s a little bit less hairy.

Right now this yellowjacket is on a hunt for tasty protein.

And she’ll have what you’re having.

But first she does a little quality control.

Sensors on her mouthparts and antennae help her judge the food’s condition.

She slices off a chunk with scissor-like mandibles.

But she doesn’t actually eat this fine fare.

Mature yellowjackets like her don’t need the protein themselves.

So she rolls it up into a meatball, using her forelegs and mandibles.

And takes that burger to go.

Flying it back to her underground nest.

And she does it all for these cuties.

Yellowjacket larvae need protein to develop. And they like meatballs.

All that gathering food and flying around gives our adult yellowjacket an appetite.

She prods the youngsters and they offer their thanks in the form of a sugary throw up, or exudate.

The adults slurp that up and jet off on more meatball missions.

And yellowjackets bring back all kinds of interesting entrees.

Ever tried moth wings?

Cockroach croquettes?

As these yellowjackets make mouse tartare for their babies, they can clean a carcass down to the bone!

And that’s an important service.

I mean, would you want to clean this up?

To help fuel their frequent flying, they stop at flowers, downing sugary nectar and pollinating as they go

But what about that sting?

Unlike her bee cousins, she can sting again and again.

But it’s a last resort when she or her nest is threatened.

So give them some space!

And try to remember the good she does as a scavenger, a pollinator and a provider for her colony.

As she’s swiping a tiny meatball from your plate.

Laura here.

What’s colorful, cute but still a little creepy? You guessed it, ladybugs!

They spend most of their lives alone, stuffing themselves on aphids.

But every winter they gather by the thousands for a ladybug love-in.


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