Largest yellow jacket nest ever documented? - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Largest yellow jacket nest ever documented?

June 28, 2006

Sumter County - It appears we spoke too soon. On Tuesday, we brought you a story about a huge yellow Jacket nest in Lee County. Code enforcement officers said it was the biggest they'd ever seen. But after we ran that story, we found out about an even larger nest in Sumter County, and it may be the biggest nest ever found.

There's one thing you certainly don't want to do when approaching a nest of more than 100,000 yellow jackets, make them mad. But just in case you stir them up, it's best to use caution. So I stayed as far away as possible, and sent in my photographer, Carlton Christian to take a closer look. Of course I would never intentionally put Carlton in danger, so first, I made sure he suited up for protection before going near the nest.

"A lot of people underestimate them," says Bee keeper Roger Howell.  He says, "It's pretty dangerous if you set it off."  Deadly? "Oh yeah. Potentially it could kill you. It doesn't take but one if they get you in the right spot." Only one sting to kill. It will at the very least hurt.

That's why Charles Gary called in Howell for help after he spotted the nest building in his truck. "Well, we didn't find it, I think they found us," says Gary.  "I just looked up and they were in there, basically."

Now the part of the nest you see outside the door isn't the only part of this yellow jacket colony. It actually goes all the way under the truck on both sides of the ground, and it's believed that if it's allowed to continue growing, the yellow jacket colony will fill the entire cab of the truck. Howell thinks there are already 100,000 yellow jackets here, maybe more.

He says, "You could have something even underneath there, but the only way to find out is to lift the hood, and I ain't really quite that brave yet." Even without looking underneath the hood, he believes this nest could be the largest ever seen, so he's taking pictures to document it and plans to contact entomologists with the University of Georgia.

Howell believes the reason the nest is so big is because the yellow jackets no longer need to hibernate because South Georgia winters are so warm.  He says, "We don't have much of a winter anymore, we're falling into a tropical environment where they can technically survive. As long as there is food available for them there's no reason for them to hibernate."

 Instead, they'll have to be killed off by chemicals to keep them from killing anything else. The best thing to use to get rid of yellow jackets is seven dust, according to Howell. He says it won't kill them immediately, but it will eliminate the colony within several weeks. Howell says although yellow jackets have become a more noticeable problem, it's likely we'll begin seeing Africanized bees next year which will pose an even bigger threat.

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