Yellowjackets are Sometimes Beneficial
But They Can Also be Deadly
There may be as many as 20,000 species of wasps in the world, including 26 species of yellowjackets found in the United States. Yellowjackets are members of the vespidae species of wasps.
Yellowjackets can be beneficial predators. They will sometimes feed on flies, caterpillars, aphids and other damaging insects including beetles and cutworms. However, yellowjackets can also seriously injure and may kill people. When they become a threat to humans they must be controlled.
Wasp venom contains histamine and a substance that dissolves red blood cells. For allergic people, one sting can be deadly. For those who are not allergic to the venom, the sheer number of stings can result in death. Unlike bees, yellowjackets do not lose their stinger and die once they’ve stung – they can sting repeatedly.
Yellowjackets are fiercely protective of their colony, and most cases that involve multiple stings involve the accidental discovery of a mature nest while hiking, clearing yard debris or mowing the lawn.
Yellowjackets are also believed to be capable of alerting the rest of their colony when they’re in trouble and thousands may swarm. Individual yellowjackets may also sting if swatted away from a potential food source or if they accidentally end up in your mouth after crawling into or perching on your soft drink can.
Only the queen survives through winter, and she starts her new colony in early spring or late winter, depending on the climate. A queen will forage by herself for about a month to six weeks before she begins to build the nest. When the first workers emerge, the queen stops foraging and no longer leaves the colony and the best opportunity for prevention is lost.
Where Yellowjackets Live
Where yellowjackets nest depends on their species. Some nest in the ground in rodent burrows, in wall voids and in attics. Others may attach their nest to the eaves of a building, under a deck or from the limb of a tree.
Nests are made of chewed wood fibers mixed with saliva and typically are enclosed in a grey envelope with a single opening. The population of the colony may grow to between 1,500 and 15,000 yellowjackets, depending on the species.
If a rodent hole isn’t large enough, a ground nesting yellowjacket may moisten the soil with saliva and start digging to enlarge the opening. Similar behavior inside a house sometimes leads to a wet patch that develops into a hole in a wall or ceiling. Yellowjackets can chew through wood and plaster and enter the home unexpectedly.
Knocking down newly started nests early in the season won’t do any good – the queen will simply start another nest in a different location. Such nests are also difficult to find since there isn’t much activity around them yet.
As the nest becomes active, the most efficient way to determine its location is to act as an observer. Carefully and correctly locating the nest will allow you to know where you need to avoid until the nest can be safely removed.
How and What to Observe
Where are the yellowjackets going to and coming from? Nests are often located underground in an old rodent burrow, beneath a landscape timber, or in a rock wall or wall of a building. However, aerial species may locate their nests overhead. Nests are also frequently located underneath a deck or porch. Yellowjackets are very aggressive when their nest is disturbed – use caution and common sense at all times.
If you’re searching in a dark place or at night, keep in mind that the beam from a flashlight may startle the yellowjackets; at night, they may think a flashlight beam is the sun rising. Do not shine a flashlight beam directly into the nest entrance. Instead, cast the beam to the side to illuminate the nest indirectly and place the light on the ground rather than in your hand. Don’t get too close and keep an escape route clear.
Yellowjacket Control Methods
Using Lures and Traps
By far, the best time to use traps and lures is during the early spring to capture the queen. Usually one trap per acre is adequate. In summer and fall, traps and lures may also be used, but they will not generally yield satisfactory results in controlling large populations.
There are two basic types of traps: Lure traps and water traps.
Lure Traps contain a chemical that attracts yellowjackets.
Proteins, such as lunchmeat, can be added to improve results.
As the season progresses, increase the frequency of freshening chemical lures – the warmer the weather, the more frequent the change. In spring this may mean every six to eight weeks; in warmer weather every two to four weeks. Replace lunchmeat as necessary, but do not allow it to rot.
Periodically check the trap and remove dead yellowjackets.
Lure traps and chemical lures can be purchased through retail outlets.
Water Traps are often homemade. They may consist of a five-gallon bucket filled with soapy water and a protein bait suspended on a string, one to two inches above the water.
Turkey, chicken, ham, fish and liver give good results.
Use a wide mesh screen over the top of the bucket to allow yellowjackets entry while keeping larger animals away from your bait.
Once the yellowjacket removes the bait it typically flies down, becomes trapped in the soapy water and drowns.
Clean water traps and replace bait frequently.
Common Sense Tips
Be on the lookout for nests when outdoors and don’t go near them.
Yellowjackets going in and out of an area are probably going to and from their nest.
Place traps and lures away from patio or picnic areas so wasps will be drawn away from your center of backyard activity.
It is also a good idea to place traps and lures during the very early morning or later evening hours when yellowjackets are less active.
Keep foods, including pet foods, covered or inside the house, at least until the last minute.
Repair any torn window and door screens around the house. Keep screens closed whenever practical.
Keep drinks covered. Use a drink lid or straw. Look before you eat or drink, as yellowjackets especially like sticky foods, soda and fruit juice.
Keep outdoor trash cans clean and keep garbage cans tightly sealed.
Carefully clean up yard waste, including decaying fruit.
Don't swat them, especially when they are near a potential food source.
Wear heavy clothing when walking or working in wooded areas.
Caution children about playing in overgrown areas, where nests are most likely to be found.
Peace of Mind All Year Round
Protect yourself, your family and your home from potentially deadly insects like yellowjackets with a comprehensive, single-family home. quarterly pest control service plan from Dura Tech.
There's no obligation, so if you're in my service area call me for a comprehensive inspection and plan workup today!
NOTE: While most pest control services can be quoted FREE over the phone, there is a $40 service charge for an in-person inspection and estimate, which you get back if you become a Dura Tech customer. All termite problems and quarterly pest control programs require an in-person inspection. Dura Tech does not conduct wood destroying insect inspections as required by HUD, VA and conventional lenders for the transfer or sale of real estate.
Eliminating the Nest
Do-it-yourself removal can be dangerous, even if you think you know what you are doing.
While you might be tempted to try to remove a yellowjacket or wasp nest yourself, it is easiest and safest to call a professional.
If you have concerns about eradicating a nest, by all means you should call a professional to handle this tricky and potentially dangerous task for you. Other reasons for hiring a professional include:
Nest removal for subterranean or cavity-dwelling yellowjackets is not always practical because the nests are underground or otherwise inaccessible. Instead, chemical treatment may be necessary.
While some suggest pouring hot water over a ground nest, if done incorrectly this could be dangerous.
If you're in my service area, call me! I can evaluate your situation and use the best and safest method of eradication.
I have all the necessary and safe pesticides, lures, traps, tools and protective gear to greatly reduce risks to you and your family.
New Customers SAVE 10% OFF Initial Treatment Cost
You must be a NEW RESIDENTIAL CUSTOMER in my service area
Applies to any rodents or insects we control - including yellowjackets
Not valid with any other offer
One coupon per customer
You must present the coupon to receive the discount