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Yellow jackets along with bald face hornets are actually wasps. They are unlike honey bees that are true social insects, in that they do not store up food to carry them through winter. Instead they will raise up queens in the fall of the year, when cold weather arrives the colony will die out and the queens will hibernate in cracks and crevices during the winter and then start the process over the following spring.
Yellow jackets generally build their nest in the ground and all that can be seen is a hole about the size of a half dollar. They are commonly found are in and around flower beds since the soil is often softer much like the soil found in the forest. They are also found in rotting stumps, logs, and landscape timbers. In addition they can also nest in the walls and voids of houses although this is not very common.
Yellow jackets are known to be very aggressive when disturbed. These highly defensive animals can sting multiple times, but they are not known to chase there victims very far, often less than 100 ft. Most yellow jacket colonies will never grow larger than a football, with their colony population reaching 100-150 members. Although, there have been many nest found in the southern states to be larger than a horse, with extreme populations of over 100,000. Often these large nest are found in areas where the winter did not get cold enough for the colony to die out.