Tracker Jacker

Tracker jackers are genetically modified vespids that hunt down and attack anything that disturbs their nests.

The Definitive Glossary for The Hunger Games

Tracker jackers are used extensively by the Capitol, both as a tool in the Hunger Games and as a means of torture for captured rebels. The sting of the tracker jacker is highly dangerous – causing bizarre hallucinations that can drive people insane. Tracker jacker poison can cause the occasional death as well, making these mutts some of the most powerful biological weapons of the Capitol.

Tracker Jacker Definition

Tracker jackers are another one of the muttations that were conceived of and created in the Capitol. They are wasps that have been genetically engineered to “track” down (hence the name “tracker” jackers) and attack the first thing that disturbs their nests. The venom of these wasps has also been modified to be much more dangerous than the venom of ordinary vespids, i.e., they can cause extreme hallucinations and even death in some cases.

The Invention of Tracker Jackers

Like numerous other muttations, tracker jackers were created by the Capitol to be used as biological weapons during the First Rebellion. They were conceived by Capitol scientists and produced in laboratories. Larger than a regular wasp and far more deadly, these tracker jackers were used to drive the people of the districts insane through powerful hallucinations.

They were spread across the country during the rebellion, allowing the Capitol to exercise its influence from afar. Once the rebellion had been squashed, however, the government destroyed the tracker jackers in and around the Capitol. They decided to leave those in the districts intact as a reminder of the Capitol’s power. Katniss encounters some tracker jacker nests in District 12, as well as in the arena of the Hunger Games.

The Tracker Jacker’s Toxin

The sting of the tracker jacker is highly dangerous. Not only does it produce a swelling that can grow almost as big as oranges within minutes, but it also produces vivid hallucinations. During Katniss’ hallucinations from the sting of the tracker jacker, she notices a foul green liquid oozing out of her wound after she removes the barbed stinger. She also notices that her wound burst and fizzled occasionally. However, these observations might have been the result of the hallucinations, and as such, it is uncertain whether the tracker jacker venom produces these effects or not.

The hallucinations brought on by the tracker jacker venom are highly vivid and often disturbing. The venom was designed to induce fear in its victims, and more often than not, it drove a person insane after a while. Although the images brought on by the tracker jacker venom are vivid, they can later seem false and even bizarre.

Different people experience different hallucinations in response to the sting of the tracker jacker. Katniss, who was stung thrice in the arena of the 74th Hunger Games, experienced hallucinations for up to two days. During this time she saw a butterfly that was the size of a house, orange bubbles that produced a humming sound, and trees that transformed into pools of blood.

The hallucinations produced by the tracker jacker venom could also be kinesthetic (Katniss felt several ants boring into her eyes before she blacked out from the poison) as well as auditory – leaving the distinct impression of realism upon the victim. This is what happened to Katniss, who was unable to distinguish between imagination and reality, despite being aware of the effects of tracker jackers. The inability to distinguish between imagination and reality can sometimes be a long-lasting effect amongst victims of tracker jackers. 

Peeta, who was continually injected with tracker jacker venom for days on end, described his memories under the influence as “shiny”. This is how he was able to differentiate between his real memories and those induced by the venom.

If one receives numerous tracker jacker stings at the same time, the volume of poison injected into their body is enough to cause death. This is what happened to Glimmer, the female tribute from District 1, and the female tribute from District 4, who received multiple tracker jacker stings in the arena and were dead within a few hours.


If one receives mild stings from tracker jackers, then the effects of the venom wear off within a couple of days without extra intervention. However, the pain and swelling from the stings remain for a lot longer and can be reduced with the medicinal properties of a type of leaf found in the wild. Rue, Katniss’ friend in the arena, chews these leaves to release the juices and places the paste on the stings, thereby providing relief from the pain and swelling. Katniss recalls that her mother uses the same leaves to treat tracker jacker wounds, although instead of chewing them, her mother grinds them up before placing them on the wounds.

Tracker jackers retain vestiges of traits of the vespid (their parent wasp) in the fact that they can be sedated by smoke. During the rebellion, the rebels used to release large amounts of smoke to slow down the movements of tracker jackers to great success.


The Capitol began using tracker jackers to torture captives during the Second Rebellion. The method used to do so is “hijacking” where the victim’s memories are altered through the tracker jacker venom. In this process, small amounts of venom are injected and a specific memory is induced by a stimulus, thereby forcing the victim to associate the memory with the pain and fear that accompany tracker jacker stings. Peeta was hijacked similarly, with his memories of Katniss being perceptibly warped as well as unpleasantly associated with fear. His perception of Katniss was altered to the point where he thought that she was a highly dangerous Capitol mutt, and as such, he attempted to strangle her on sight.

There is no known cure for hijacking, except reverse hijacking. Here, the victim of the hijacking process is forced to draw up his/her warped memories under the influence of tracker jacker venom once again. However, this time, the memories are associated with positive emotions instead of pain and fear. Peeta was treated similarly, after which he was able to distinguish his real memories of Katniss from the false ones.


What is a tracker jacker?

A tracker jacker is a muttation created by the Capitol. It is a genetically engineered wasp that is designed to hunt down and attack anything that disturbs its nest.

What happens if you get stung by a tracker jacker?

The sting of a tracker jacker is extremely harmful. It leaves one with a swelling that can reach the size of oranges, while the venom injected produces hallucinations that can drive the victim insane. Occasionally, tracker jacker stings can also prove fatal.

Who died by tracker jackers?

Glimmer, the female tribute from District 1, was attacked by tracker jackers after Katniss sent down a tracker jacker nest onto the career pack. Glimmer, along with the female tribute from District 4, ended up with multiple stings across their bodies which ultimately led to their deaths.

What do tracker jackers symbolize in The Hunger Games?

Tracker jackers are a symbol of the power and oppression exercised by the Capitol over the districts. By designing a mutant creature that is capable of not only producing hallucinations but also causing death, the Capitol effectively sends a message that they will stop at nothing to maintain their position of power.

Why are tracker jackers called that?

Tracker jackers are called that because they are built to “track” down anyone and anything that disturbs their nest.

How does Katniss use tracker jackers?

When Katniss and Rue were stranded on top of a tree by the career pack, Rue points out a nest of tracker jackers near Katniss. Katniss carefully cuts away the branch holding the nest, thereby sending the nest plummeting down right on top of the career pack. This forces them to scatter away in different directions.

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