You’re outdoors enjoying a late-summer picnic and within minutes, dozens of yellow, flying insects intrude on your fun. People often think, “Bees!” but these uninvited guests are just as likely to be yellow jackets, a type of ground-nesting wasp. Often confused with bees, yellow jackets are much more aggressive, and most reported “bee stings” may in fact be yellow jacket stings. As a former hobby beekeeper, it’s my duty to stand up for bees and set the record straight!
In spring and early summer, yellow jackets are carnivores, feeding mostly on insects to provide protein to developing larvae in their colony. In doing so, they help keep garden pests, such as caterpillars, in check. As the season progresses, their population grows and their diet changes to include more sugars. As natural food sources become scarce, they turn to scavenging, and that’s when you’ll find them lurking around garbage cans and pestering picnickers. A few yellow jackets here and there are a nuisance, but a nest of them in your yard can pose a real hazard.
Yellow jackets often nest underground in rodent burrows, so if you see lots of flying insects emerging from a hole in the ground, they’re probably yellow jackets. By late summer, a colony may contain thousands of individuals that will aggressively defend their nests from intruders. They’re easily provoked and will attack in force, chasing the perceived threat for large distances. What’s worse, each yellow jacket can sting multiple times. Sounds and vibrations, such as those from a mower or trimmer, can trigger an attack, even from a distance.
If a yellow jacket nest poses an immediate threat to passersby, including pets, then you may need to take actions. Be sure to positively identify the insects, however. You don’t want to inadvertently destroy the nests of bees or other look-alikes. For these reasons you may want to call a professional if you find a nest, but there are steps you can take to keep yellow jackets from harassing you, your pets, and your family around the yard and house.
Woodland Hardware has a number of items that can help you keep those nasty stingy things at bay. They have Victor Yellow Jacket Traps that come with bait packets. These traps attract yellow jackets and once in the trap they can’t escape and die. The traps are available in 2 sizes and are priced from $6.99 to $7.49. They also have refill bait for the traps at $4.99 for two baits. It’s a good idea to hang one or more of these traps around your patio, especially if you are having a cook out.
Besides the Victor traps, Woodland Hardware carry a variety of chemical sprays from Black Flag, Raid, and other pest control companies.
It’s been a great summer so far, so be sure to keep your pets and family safe by keeping those aggressive yellow jackets from spoiling a good time.