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Unlike honeybees, who lose their barbed stingers and die after one sting, yellow jackets can usually sting repeatedly. The yellow jacket's stinger is smoother than a honeybee's, allowing it to enter and withdraw from skin multiple times. Her stinger does have tiny barbs, though. One yellow jacket species is prone to losing its stingers.
Yellow Jacket Attacks
Yellow jackets guard their nests and will attack when anything threatens the nest. Vibrations, such as from motorized yard maintenance equipment, can trigger an attack, because the yellow jackets are sensitive to vibration, according to the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service. Many species emit a chemical that summons others. Each yellow jacket can quickly sting several times.
Eastern Yellow Jacket
The eastern yellow jacket, Vespula maculifrons, nests in the ground and occasionally in walls in the Eastern United States. This small insect lives in colonies of up to 5,000 individuals. Unlike the stingers of other yellow jacket species, an eastern yellow jacket's stinger may remain embedded in the skin. If you slap the yellow jacket off when it stings, it may lose its stinger, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Eastern yellow jackets can sting multiple times like other species, even though they sometimes lose their stingers.
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