Yellow jackets live for roughly a year and a half. They live an entire life cycle from egg to larva to adult from the spring of one year through the fall of the following year. Only one yellow jacket, the new queen, lives to see another year.
In the spring, a new queen emerges from underground, builds a nest and lays her eggs. Then workers emerge to help care for the eggs. The eggs hatch; larvae emerge, mature by the end of summer and then leave the nest to mate. After mating, the yellow jackets bury themselves underground to wait out the winter and restart the cycle again the following spring. The adult workers, males and the old queen die in the fall.