Yellow Jacket Season
Summertime in the world of pest control means busy time, and one of the many pests that keep us buzzing (see what I did there?) is the yellow jacket. This is the time of year we receive many panicked customer calls regarding yellow jacket nests, and I can personally attest to the fact that panic is a normal reaction when it comes to these very social, very aggressive insects. I will never forget walking in the woods with my dad when I was a kid and unintentionally stepping on an underground nest. To say I was stung would be an understatement. I was absolutely swarmed with angry, attacking yellow jackets who were intent on punishing me for daring to trespass on their home. I now watch my step more carefully and watch for signs of an infestation.
What is a yellow jacket anyway?
So first of all, let’s talk about the identity of the yellow jacket. This is a type of hornet species and is more aggressive and more likely to sting than bees and wasps. The good news is that most people say the sting of a yellow jacket is less painful than their cousins; however, my experience was not the one sting but the multiple stings that made the yellow jacket particularly dangerous.
As far as appearance goes, you’ve probably guessed their color pattern is yellow. They are shiny bright yellow and black in color. They have a thick waist, generally short legs, and wings that tend to rest flat to the body. Some people mistake honey bees for yellow jackets, but honey bees have a fuzzy appearance and their coloring is more amber than bright yellow. Yellow jackets eat other insects so they are a beneficial species but sometimes cause problems based on their chosen nesting location near human populations.
Where do yellow jackets live?
Yellow jackets love to make their nests in void spaces such as the cavities beneath dying bushes or in decaying hollows of trees. They will even build in chipmunk holes and other voids created by burrowing animals. These nests can be harder to see and avoid than other stinging insect varieties, as I recall from my unfortunate experience as a child. Yellow jackets do not dig their own holes but will live in a rodent hole or space left by other creatures in the ground. Hollow tree stumps and attic spaces are also possible nesting sites. What causes the biggest problem is their affinity for building in human landscaping such as wood or rock retaining walls or paver stones. They will even build in wall voids or inside window sills around a home. We often see them nesting around a water spigot handle as it sticks out of the side of a house. We’ve had many customers call after being stung trying to turn on their outside water.
What time of year are yellow jackets active?
Late spring to fall is the yellow jacket season. Since yellow jacket nests die out over the winter, each spring begins with a new season of nest building. For this reason, if nests can be found in early spring, it is easier to eradicate them before they grow in size later in the summer and fall. The difficulty is that because they are so small, it is harder to spot. This spring, we had a wetter season and have noticed a significantly earlier start to yellow jacket activity.
Do yellow jackets cause a problem?
Well, if by problem you mean sting…the answer is an emphatic yes. And if you have an allergy, medical help could be necessary after an encounter with these critters. Because yellow jackets do not lose their stingers after the sting, they are able to sting multiple times resulting in a far more dangerous situation for the offending human or animal. And to add insult to injury, these little guys not only sting but also bite you first so they can get a good hold for the best sting! For the most part, stings occur because they are protecting their nest. I suppose I can respect protecting the family, but geez…can’t we at least try to talk it out first before immediately responding in violence??
And by the way, wearing sweet-smelling perfume and bright clothes is very attractive to this flower-seeking species. So don’t go trying to impersonate a flower.
Not only humans but honey bees are in danger from yellow jackets. By detecting pheromone levels, the yellow jackets can tell if a hive is particularly weak. If they can get through the honey bee guards stationed outside the hive, the yellow jackets have been known to quickly decimate a honeybee hive, killing the bees, eating the larvae, eggs, pupae, and honey too!
What do yellow jacket nests look like?
These hornets create a paper nest inside the void space they occupy. Inside the paper-like shell, they create a honey-comb like structure to house the developing larvae. The entrance is typically about the size of a nickel. One of the key components of nesting site choice is the presence of food and water within about 1,000 feet of the nest. These nests can be the size of a basketball by the end of a season!
Are there any preventative steps to take to avoid yellow jacket problems?
First of all, having regular pest control is an effective preventative since professionals are experienced in spotting problems before they become major infestations. There is obviously no way a pest control technician can inspect the whole of your property every time, so you as the homeowner must be intentional in inspecting your home and property for pest issues. Knowing you have a problem is, after all, the first step to solving a multitude of issues. You can often see the yellow jackets entering and leaving the nesting site during the day as they get food and water, but since this is the most active time of day, it is also the most dangerous time to get stung. Nighttime is a less active time, but the danger is still present even then. A homeowner can keep high protein foods such as dog food in a sealed container indoors and also remember that hummingbird feeders with sugar are attractants, so keep those away from human interaction areas. Sealing up and cleaning out garbage areas frequently can also help in avoiding yellow jacket problems.
I have yellow jackets! What should I do?
Honestly, the best thing to do is call a professional. Yellow jackets can be dangerous, especially if you or your family have allergies of any kind. There’s all kinds of advice online plus the old wives’ tales, but it’s dangerous…I’m just saying, it’s probably cheaper to call a professional with a protective suit, knowledge, and experience than to take a trip to the emergency room.
Just mark the location of the nest and give us a call!
If you suspect you have yellow jackets, Canton Termite and Pest Control is ready to help with all your pest problems. Give us a call at 770-479-1598!