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- updated 02/01/2013 -

Blackjackets
Vespula consobrina (SAUSSURE, 1854)


 Special thanks for the helpful advices of Mr. Richard Vernier, Prangins (Switzerland)

Short introduction:

The Blackjacket Vespula consobrina is very similar to the Bald-Faced-Hornet, but there are four decisive criteria clearly visible to identify this species:

  • The pure black, instead of chocolate-brown, color of the compound eyes

  • The presence of a black spot on the gena, behind the compound eyes, above the mandibles
    (Dolichovespula maculata has always a complete white strip at this place)

  • The total lack of a keel on the pronotum (moreover, this keel is clearly indicated by a small lateral white branch of the humeral stripe on every Dolichovespula maculata worker: here, the humeral white strip is convex, but not branched)

  • The presence of a complete, although very thin, white apical band on the second gastral tergite (Dolichovespula maculata has at most short lateral spots at this place)

Vespula consobrina, being an ordinary Yellowjacket despite its common name, is appreciably SMALLER than the true Bald-faced Hornet. A Blackjacket queen, like the one of the photograph, has barely the size of a middle-sized Bald-faced Hornet worker.

In fact, we are in presence of a very instructive case of mullerian mimicry: V. consobrina is black and white just like D. maculata because it is an almost perfect mullerian mimic of it. Some North-American solitary wasps of the Eumenine subfamily, like Euodynerus leucomelas, are parts of the same mullerian ring and are black and white instead of black and yellow, too.

Unlike its model, V. consobrina does not occur throughout North-America, but has a rather boreal distribution. It seems to prefer coniferous woodlands and to be very common nowhere.

Blackjacket queen; picture taken by Tom Sullivam, Maine
Blackjacket queen, picture taken by Tom Sullivan

 


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