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Mating of western yellowjackets

The following post comes to us from our new President, Staffan Lindgren, who in addition to being a great researcher, takes the time to make natural history observations which are crucial for any entomologist. 

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Male Vespula pensylvanica. This was the male that was mating with the queen.

On occasion I grab my camera and go out in the garden to see if some photogenic insect or other arthropod is willing to pose for me. On October 18, I went out to see what was happening around the rose bushes between ours and our neighbour’s yard. I was immediately struck by the fairly intense activity of yellowjackets, which peaked my curiosity. After looking around for a while I saw what the commotion was all about; a large queen was being mobbed by a number of males. To my knowledge, I have never seen a male yellowjacket wasp before. A casual observer would just think that they were workers, since they are about the same size and don’t otherwise look obviously different. Looking closer I realized that the queen was in copula with one of the males, so I tried to get some photos. It immediately became clear that I had the wrong lens on; my Canon MP-E 65 macro simply couldn’t capture the entire scene. Therefore the photos I managed to take only show parts of the scene. I didn’t have time to go back and change the lens, unfortunately, but below are a few shots.

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Here is another view of the male.

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This is the queen. The male she was mating with is in the lower right corner. Note the second male trying to mate with her in the background. Note also that her legs are not in contact with the leaf; she was essentially held by the male.

Vespula pair mating-5377

And here is a view of the act of mating, showing the male in the foreground holding on to the queen. Using these photos and the identification guide to the Vespinae I came to the conclusion that these are Vespula pensylvanica Saussure.

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