This sounds like a global warming problem. Ordinarily the yellow jackets would die off in the winter - but they aren't - in Alabama - like they used to.
"Giant nests perplex experts"
To the bafflement of insect experts, gigantic yellow jacket nests have started turning up in old barns, unoccupied houses, cars and underground cavities across the southern two-thirds of Alabama.
Specialists say it could be the result of a mild winter and drought conditions, or multiple queens forcing worker yellow jackets to enlarge their quarters so the queens will be in separate areas. But experts haven't determined exactly what's behind the surprisingly large nests.
Auburn University entomologists, who say they've never seen the nests so large, have been fielding calls about the huge nests from property owners from Dothan up to Sylacauga and over into west-central Alabama's Black Belt.
At one site in Barbour County, the nest was as large as a Volkswagen Beetle, said Andy McLean, an Orkin pesticide service manager in Dothan who helped remove it from an abandoned barn about a month ago.
"It was one of the largest ones we've seen," McLean said.
Attached to two walls and under the slab, the nest had to be removed in sections, McLean said.
Entomologist Dr. Charles Ray at the Alabama Cooperative Extension System in Auburn said he's aware of about 16 of what he described as "super-sized" nests in south Alabama....
In previous years, a yellow jacket nest was no larger than a basketball, Ray said. It would contain about 3,000 workers and one queen. These gigantic nests may have as many as 100,000 workers and multiple queens.
Without a cold winter to kill them this year, the yellow jackets continued feeding in January and February -- and layering their nests made of paper, not wax. They typically are built in shallow underground cavities.
Yellow jackets, often confused with bees, may visit flowers for sugar, but unlike bees, yellow jackets are carnivorous, eating insects, carrion and picnic food, according to scientists.
"They were able to find food to colony through the winter," Ray said in a telephone interview.
He investigated a nest near Pineapple, measuring about 5 feet by 4 feet...