Yellowjackets are a particularly vicious kind of wasps that closely resemble honey bees in appearance, but are entirely different in nature and habits. Yellowjackets and wasps have a very narrow waist which distinguishes them from bees. They eat other insects but are also attracted to picnic sites, garbage cans or other “people food”, especially sweets and meat.
They are extremely territorial and often make their nests in unseen holes in the ground. If disturbed, they will attack the offending person or animal without mercy. When walking in wooded areas, take note if you see yellow jackets hovering, they will often be near the ground. Although they often nest in undeveloped wooded areas, it is not uncommon to find their nests in a yard, near houses, and where children play.
Unlike honey bees, yellow jackets and other wasps are not killed when they sting and can and will sting over and over. When swatted or harmed, they give off a signal to other nearby hive-mates that will bring others to their defense. If a person is unfortunate enough to stumble onto a nest, he may be stung multiple times before being able to get away.
If you determine that you have a yellow jacket nest in your yard, you will need to closely observe their comings and goings to see where they are entering the ground. Your best chance to destroy them is to wait until dusk when they return to the nest for the night. Advance preparation will be necessary, so you may want to observe them one evening to see their pattern and return the following evening to kill the nest. Dress in long, thick pants, long sleeves, socks, boots, and gloves. Protect your face and head as much as possible, as these are primary targets of yellow jackets.
The Georgia Extension Service recommends that you use a spray specially designed for “Wasps and Hornets”, which spray at full-force and can reach up to 12 feet, killing the wasps instantly. Other insecticides may take longer and anger the yellow jackets, causing them to come after you. Rake any leaves or obstructions from the mouth of the hole and put the can directly over the hole. Press down the plunger and empty the can into the hole. This should destroy all the wasps immediately. Observe the hole for a couple of days to see if there are any survivors and retreat in the same way if necessary.
Yellowjacket stings can be extremely painful and may take days to heal. Applying ice to the site may reduce the pain and swelling. Other recommended emergency treatments may include applying a paste of meat tenderizer directly to the site, or ammonia, vinegar, or baking soda, all of which may help. If you are unable to get to any of these, try a little mud applied directly to the sting. An over-the-counter oral antihistamine may help if taken right away, especially in children. These may also have a calming effect on the frightened child.
If you have ever had an allergic reaction to a bee sting, you will need to seek medical attention immediately. Symptoms of an allergic reaction can include hives, shortness of breath, dizziness, swelling of the face or tongue, or nausea and can strike very quickly, sometimes cutting off the air passages, causing suffocation.
For those with allergies to bee or wasp stings, they can be more deadly than snake bites if not treated quickly. If you or someone in your family has a history of an allergic reaction to bee stings, consult your doctor who may be able to give you a prescription for an injectable antidote, which you should carry with you at all times. It is easily administered and may save a life.
Other effective preventive measures include:
Lay off perfume and other fragrances if you plan to be in the woods; these attract many insects, as well as yellow jackets.
Insect repellents may help; don’t forget to reapply as needed.
Warn your family that these wasps can be found in the ground and that they should never, ever investigate if they see one entering a nest. Where there is one, there may be hundreds!
If you are unable to determine the location of the nest, there are “traps” available in your home and garden store. These are hung up similar to a bird feeder and lure the yellow jackets in with a combination of meat and sugar. Although they will not eliminate the problem, they can be somewhat helpful, if the trap is cleaned and the lure replaced regularly.
Yellowjackets are an important part of the food chain but can be very dangerous to people. If you find you need to destroy them to keep your home safe, be sure you do it effectively. You definitely don’t want to make them mad!
Summertime is backyard time. This means we can enjoy barbecues, gardening, and other fun activities spent in the great outdoors. Nothing can sully a sunny afternoon like a yard full of yellow jackets though. Lately, it seems as if these pests are everywhere.
They build nests in our decks, sheds, flowerbeds, and even underground. They interrupt our picnics and playing, and they just get in the way. How does one defend one’s home against these annoying insects without becoming a stinging victim?
Wasps, such as yellow jackets, do serve a useful purpose. They aid in the pollination of flowers and eat small insects around our property. For most of us, however, the bad outweighs the good. Yellowjackets love sweets and meat. For this reason, you’ll see them hovering around picnic tables and garbage cans, making people nervous about approaching these areas.
They’re also quick to sting and don’t always need a reason. Yellowjackets are social insects. Hundreds of these insects can live in one nest. Because of this, it’s best not to knowingly approach a nest in daylight. If the yellow jacket feels threatened it will aggressively defend its nest and call in reinforcements to help. Unlike the bee, yellow jackets don’t die after stinging and will sting repeatedly if they feel threatened.
There are several things you can do to discourage the yellow jacket from converging upon your property:
- At the beginning of the season, spray bushes and plants with an environmentally safe pesticide. This will cut off the yellow jacket’s food supply forcing them to look for a more profitable bit of property in which to do their hunting.
- Keep trashcans tightly covered. Yellowjackets are attracted to food smells.
- Throw away empty food and beverage containers and don’t leave used paper plates and cups lying around.
- Keep barbecue and picnic food covered.
- Try not to wear perfume, hairspray, or any other sweet scent that can attract yellow jackets to your property.
If you want to rid your area of these pests, you must first locate the nest. If you’re not sure where the nest is located, try and observe the yellow jackets from a safe distance. These wasps usually build their nest in crevices in porches and decks or in the ground. For your own safety, don’t approach the nest.
Once the sun starts to go down is the best time to get down to business. Yellow jackets sleep at dusk, so it’s safe to approach the nest but you may still want to stand a few feet away. Spray the nest from a safe distance (at least five to ten feet away) preferably with a pesticide that will immediately stun the wasp. The next morning, all the wasps should be dead and you can remove the nest.
Before using any pesticide, it’s best to read the label to make sure the spray isn’t harmful to the environment, pets, or humans. Be sure to follow all directions and take every necessary precaution such as dressing in protective clothing.
If yellow jackets are still a problem, or if your property seems to play host to more than just a few wasps, it’s time to bring in a professional exterminator. When facing a large army of yellow jackets, it’s best not to take any chances.
Don’t pour gasoline or other chemicals into underground nests. This is dangerous, illegal, and not very smart. If the nest is in the cracks of your walls, don’t use caulk or foam (or anything else) to seal the crack. Yellowjackets can gnaw their way through sheetrock, wood, and many other substances and may find their way into your home.
It’s best to at least keep them on the outside of the house where they present less of a threat. If you have yellow jackets on the walls of your home, call an exterminator.
With the exception of some queens, the yellow jackets will die off once the weather gets chilly. They almost never reuse their nests. Don’t let a few yellow jackets force you to spend summer time indoors. Following a few precautions can discourage these backyard pests from paying your family a visit. Wouldn’t you rather enjoy the warm weather outdoors?