Kathy, go back and look at the picture that I posted alongside yours. Look at the size of the yellowjacket beside the bee. That is the actual size of these yellowjackets that hang around my apiary and locale. It was hard to judge by your picture how much bigger the yellowjacket might have been than the picture that I posted. But.....if that yellowjacket, try to remember, was larger than the one that I showed, you can bet your very bottom dollar that it was the queen.....eeeekss!!!! And yes, she would gone and found a warm little place to hibernate until it is time for her to actually and really come out and lay her eggs.
It is highly and I mean very highly likely that that yellowjacket was anything but the queen. All the workers in the colonies of the yellowjackets die before winter. They do not live. But, long live the queen. She is immortal (hee, hee, pun intended). She goes through the winter, impregnated, hiding and keeping warm. Then when spring comes, she finds a place, raises her small little batch of brood herself and then when they hatch and begin to forage for food to feed more of the larvae, old holy blazes breaks out, and then we have the hundreds of nasty little critters that we all hate. Actually, they are pretty amazing, too bad they are so disliked. (what, did I say that? :( ;))
One time that darn yellowjacket flew into my ear. I should have been more careful about ensuring that they were not nesting on my bedroom patio. I saw it flying and tried to avoid it. Well this darn sucker went into the outer part of my ear and stung me three times. I was almost crying. I didn't realize that the pain was so extreme from these creeps. The pain lasted for hours and hours. This was about 7:00 PM that I got stung, 11:00 PM I was still in some pretty bad pain but managed to go to sleep. It was still sore the following morning, not excruciating like the night before, but still very sore. I do not like the yellowjacket, nor the hornet, nor the wasp. They are my enemy. Have an awesome day. Cindi