Officials revisit large yellow jacket nest in Flint River

Officials revisit large yellow jacket nest in Flint River
The warning was sent out that it was a real threat to people on the water and the shore. (Source: WALB)
The warning was sent out that it was a real threat to people on the water and the shore. (Source: WALB)
Ben Roberts (left) and Dale Richter (Source: WALB)
Ben Roberts (left) and Dale Richter (Source: WALB)

DOUGHERTY CO., GA (WALB) - In June, anglers reported that a huge yellow jacket nest was in the Flint River just north of the Turner boat landing.

The warning was sent out that it was a real threat to people on the water and the shore.

This week, WALB's Jim Wallace went back to the nest with a Master Beekeeper Dale Richter and a Lee County Code Enforcement Officer Ben Roberts to check if it should still be considered a threat. Roberts used to be a Department of Natural Resources Ranger.

Richter said last year that the nest held between 80 to 100,000 yellow jackets, so we approached carefully. Richter checked the nest with a heat registering device to see what was inside.

"Other than the heat of the tree, nothing is in there. It is clear," said Richter.

Which means the nest is dead. But what is left of it is amazing.

Both Richter and Roberts said it's the biggest nest they have ever seen in the open.

"Looks like it's about 8 feet around, 6 feet tall," said Richter. "I've not seen one bigger than that. That's probably about 10 or 15 cells right directly under my thumb, judging by the size of this nest. So, if you multiply that by the size of this nest, this could easily be 80 to 100,000 or more yellow jackets in this nest here."

As of Wednesday, the nest has been torn apart, apparently by boaters. There is a beer can stuck in it and there is evidence that someone shot it with a shotgun.

Richter said the nest probably died in December.

"I think the cold weather we had back in December and February," said Richter.  "The two or three days of extended cold weather killed them out. Because most of the time they won't last 32 to 34-degree temperatures."

But while Richter said the nest is dead, there is a chance the queen survived.

"She will overwinter and start again in March building a new colony by herself. Start a new colony very quickly," explained Richter.

Richter and Roberts warn that the temperatures are warming up and yellow jackets, wasps and honeybees are busy building new nests. So, you need to be on the lookout.

Richter said he would like to be able to take the entire nest and display it in the Flint Riverquarium or a museum. But because of it's size and location he doesn't think that it could be done.

Copyright 2018 WALB. All rights reserved.