Yellow Jackets

Yellow jackets are among the insects that can pose a threat whether they are inside or outside your home. Gain more knowledge about these wasps, including how to control them.

Biology of Yellow Jackets
Yellow jackets are a type of wasp that is frequently confused for a honey bee due to their similar appearance. If you were to compare a yellow jacket and a honey bee side by side, however, you would notice that the bee has hair on its abdomen and is bigger. Yellow jackets are between ½ and ¾ of an inch in length. They have narrow waists, stingers, and long legs. Their abdomens and thoraxes have alternating bands in bright yellow and black. A yellow jacket will build a nest that is very paper-like. As a wasp, the yellow jacket is a social insect, living in colonies. There are three castes of insects in wasp colonies, including males, queens, and workers. Workers take care of nest expansion, caring for the queen, defending the colony, and foraging for food.

Queen wasps who have been fertilized will come out from their winter locations during the early spring. They will choose a nesting site and then build the paper nest there. Each egg gets its own hexagonal cell. The older larvae are closer to the center while the younger larvae sit closer to the edges. As soon as the yellow jacket eggs hatch, the queen begins feeding larvae. Those larvae stay in their cells that soon get covered in silk domes. They then form pupae. Then, in mid-June, the worker wasps will emerge. In most cases, yellow jackets will make nests in the ground. They can also nest in above-ground locations, including wall voids. The nest itself will have a paper-like texture and be gray in color. Yellow jackets feed on sugary substances, with a focus on nectar that is supplemented by fruit juices. Young yellow jackets eat partially chewed insect parts plus nectar.

Why Yellow Jackets Are Considered Pests
There are plenty of reasons to call yellow jackets pests, starting with their aggressive behavior if their nests get disturbed. There is a very high risk of being stung by a yellow jacket if its nest is bothered. Unfortunately for the person being stung, yellow jackets can sting multiple times using their lance-like stinger. In most cases, the sting from a yellow jacket is just painful, but it can be extremely painful. Some people may also be highly sensitive or allergic to the sting, in which case it could even cause death. Because of this risk, you should always use caution around a yellow jacket nest and see the doctor if you are stung and have an unusual reaction. The one piece of good news regarding yellow jackets and stinging is that they are typically slow to sting. Unfortunately, this does not apply in cases when their territorial nature applies. It is also important to note that being stung by a yellow jacket once can make you hypersensitive if you are stung by one again in the future.

Methods for Controlling Yellow Jackets
When dealing with yellow jackets, it is always best to leave it to the professionals. The risk of being stung is very high, especially if you are taking steps to remove the wasps as this will be seen as threatening. Additionally, you do not want to accidentally encourage the yellow jackets to go into your home when you try to remove them. The best time of day to take care of the yellow jacket nest is at night. At this point, the wasps should all be inside where they are asleep, a fact which should make them less aggressive. It will also help that these wasps cannot see very well at night. Professionals will don protective gear and then approach the nest carefully and spray a pesticide into it. The safety gear is essential and should include gloves, eye protection, head protection, and overalls, at a minimum.

When a professional sprays the yellow jacket nest, they will likely use a pyrethrum aerosol or similar product. This will create a gas filling the space within the nest and killing the wasps at the point of contact. After the aerosol has dried, you should follow it up with an insecticide dust. This can prevent future eggs from hatching. Be sure to dust the nest itself and the surrounding area. You will need to check that there is no activity the following day as this will confirm that the wasps are dead. In some cases, you may also want to use a bait station for yellow jackets. You place bait like fresh meat and insecticide in the stations. When the wasps eat the mixture of insecticide and bait, they will die. This method is most useful in the spring and summer when yellow jacket populations are highest and they are most likely to search for meat and protein. If you try to trap them in bait stations in the fall, opt for carbohydrates instead.

DIY Tips for How to Get Rid of Yellow Jackets
Before you attempt any methods of removing yellow jackets yourself, put on the appropriate protective gear to avoid being stung. If a wasp does approach you during the process, block your face using your hands for protection. Slowly back away and do not run or swing your arms as those actions could increase the chances of getting stung. You should also take steps to discourage yellow jackets from choosing to nest on your property, such as getting rid of potential food sources. During the summer and mid-fall, you can reduce the foraging population by keeping your trash cans closed and clean. If you are unable to find the location of the yellow jacket nest, you can use a trap. These are also useful if you want to be outside and have a yellow jacket problem. Most traps will include a lure or you can use meat or fruit juice depending on the time of the year. Always place traps that you use away from the reach of pets and children.

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