Often confused with paper wasps or honey bees, yellow jackets are a type of wasp known to inhabit different parts of the world including the United States. These wasps are famous for their unique, predatory instincts, aggressive nature, and the fact that they live in such large colonies.
Finding a swarm of bees or wasps near your home is unnerving, especially considering the fact bees and wasps sting. The thing about yellow jackets, though, is that these wasps are much more aggressive than many other types of flying, stinging insects.
Worse yet, they tend to congregate in swarms of thousands and build their nests underground, in the cracks and crevices of our homes, in the hollowed spaces between our walls, in tree stumps, and even in empty piping.
The problem with yellow jackets, aside from the obvious, is that they can also be destructive and loud, especially when there are thousands of them. It’s hard to enjoy your home and yard knowing you have swarms of territorial stinging insects hanging around.
If you think you’ve come across a yellow jacket nest on your property and you aren’t sure what to do, we have you covered. Today, we are going to go over what you should do if you find a wasp nest and show you how to take care of it safely and effectively.
What Is A Yellow Jacket?
A Yellow Jacket is a type of wasp known to build concealed nests, most often underground.
Like most wasps and bees, yellow jackets have a queen or “foundress”, but unlike most wasps and bees, they prefer to build concealed nests that are usually created underground, in hollowed out trees or tree stumps, and even inside the walls of our homes.
Also known as “meat bees”, yellow jackets are highly territorial and aggressive and will attack easily if they feel their nest is being threatened. In fact, and amazingly, yellow jacket wasps are territorial enough that they will “mark” a person or animal they view as a threat and go after them, stinging and biting them repeatedly.
All female yellow jackets can sting, and they can sting over and over again without losing their stinger or dying. Each wasp sting releases a small amount of venom, however, repeated stings can be dangerous and even one sting can lead to a deadly allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis in both humans and animals.
With that being said, while yellow jackets can be a nuisance and even somewhat dangerous, it’s important to remember that these wasps are an important and beneficial insect, especially to those with gardens.
While yellow jackets don’t produce honey like the honey bee, they do help to control pests like flies, spiders and caterpillars, which can lead to a happier, healthier backyard and garden.
And, for the most part, these territorial wasps won’t attack unless provoked. Still, they do become more dangerous if they build a nest inside your home, attic, garage or in your walls. Very large yellow Jacket colonies can also become destructive, with some homeowners reporting that large colonies chewed through drywall in order to further develop their nests.
Either way, no one really wants a yellow jacket nest in or near their home. So, what do you do if you think you have a nest on your property? Let’s find out.
Identifying A Yellow Jacket Nest
A swarm of Yellow Jackets is often the first indicator of a nest nearby.
As we mentioned above, yellow jacket wasps do not typically build nests you can see. Most often, yellow jackets build their nests underground or hidden away inside cracks, crevices or hollowed out spaces. Often, the first sign of a yellow jacket wasp nest is going to be a swarm of yellow jacket wasps.
That said, it can sometimes be difficult to locate a nest, even if you notice a swarm. Yellow jacket wasps hunt and forage for insects and other food sources, and they have been known to travel quite far from their nest. Remember, yellow jackets are also social insects and like to stick together. So a cluster of wasps does not necessarily mean you are right on their nest.
The best way to locate a nest is to follow the yellow jackets from a safe distance and see where they end up. If you notice a large swarm of yellow jackets going in and out of a hole in the ground, or a crevice in a stump, tree, pipe, or crack in your home, chances are you have located the nest.
Locating A Yellow Jacket Nest – Steps And Pro Tips
Yellow Jackets are aggressive and attack in swarms if they feel their nest is being threatened.
Remember, finding a yellow jacket nest may not be easy. Yellow jackets travel and hang out in groups inside and outside their nest. The best and most effective way to find a nest is to follow the below steps.
- Search Between 10 AM and 4 PM
Yellow Jackets are most active between 10 AM and 4 PM, which means this is the best time for you to go on a nest hunt. If you try to look for a nest before 10 AM or wait to look for one until after 4 PM, you may not have any luck finding a yellow jacket to lead you to the nest.
- Holes, Cracks, And Crevices – Know What To Look For
Yellow Jackets don’t build nests from scratch. They typically find a space that is good for them to build a nest, and go from there. This means abandoned snake or rodent holes may be prime real estate for a colony of yellow jackets.
Yellow jacket wasps also like to build their nests in hollowed out trees, tree trunks, stumps, and loose siding on walls, windowpains, attics, and garages. Try and be aware of where these areas are around your property and home, and look in those areas first.
- Set A Lure
Because it can be difficult to locate a yellow jacket wasp nest, you may need to lure them out and lie in wait. Yellow jackets are hunters, so any protein-based foods like tuna, dog or cat food, and even chicken will serve as excellent bait.
You can also use sugar baits like fruit jams or sodas. Put the bait out on a dish near where you have seen the most yellow jacket activity, and wait patiently. Stand or sit very still. Yellow jackets will fly in a straight line to their food source and then bring it back again in a straight line to their nest.
- Once You Locate A Nest, Mark It
There may be more than one wasp nest on your property. If that’s the case, mark nearby each nest with a small flag, spray paint, or object. Do not disturb the nest or the yellow jackets until you are ready to use your treatment methods, or you risk being attacked and stung.
- Come Up With A Treatment Plan
Once you have found and marked the wasp nest, you’ll need to come up with a treatment plan. Until you are ready to implement your treatment plan, leave the nest alone. Remember, Yellow Jacket wasps are highly territorial and will attack if they feel threatened.
Keep a safe distance from the yellow jacket nest and certainly don’t antagonize these wasps. Remember, they can sting and bite repeatedly and even mark you, recognizing you as an enemy or a threat.
How To Get Rid Of A Yellow Jacket Nest Safely
Getting rid of a wasp nest should be done carefully to ensure no one gets stung.
Because yellow jackets tend to be so aggressive, many people find that it’s easiest to hire a professional to handle their nest. However, this is not always necessary and you can treat a yellow jacket nest on your own using safe methods and products as long as you are careful.
That said, if you know you are allergic to yellow jackets, other wasps, hornets or bees, do not try and treat the yellow jacket nest yourself. Even if you are as careful as possible, there is still a chance you may get stung.
If you do decide to remove the yellow jacket nest on your own, it’s best to wear protective gear like gloves, long sleeves and pants, and a hat with netting to cover your face and neck.
Yellow jacket nest control should be done at night, as this is when yellow jackets are least active and therefore you are more likely to get most of them at once as opposed to only getting the few that are in the nest during the day.
Yellow jacket wasps are also unable to see as well in the dark, thus making it safer for you to approach and treat an active nest.
This video below gives a step-by-step guide on locating and safely treating a yellow jacket nest
Following Yellow Jacket Control Steps
Yellow jacket wasps are crafty and can make their nests almost anywhere.
Handling yellow jackets is a process. Let’s do a quick overview of how to properly handle and treat a yellow jacket nest.
- Locate The Nest
Find the yellow jacket nest and mark it with a flag, object, or spray paint. Then stay away until you are ready to treat the nest either by hiring a professional or using your own methods.
- Remove The Nest Using Your Desired Treatment Methods
Hiring a professional exterminator or pest control expert to remove your yellow jacket nest may be the best solution for you, especially if you are allergic to bees or wasps or if your yellow jacket problem is severe. However, you may opt to purchase wasp control products to help you remove the nest on your own. If you choose the latter wasp removal methods, make sure you follow the directions and steps carefully.
- Sanitize And Monitor The Area
Once the nest is removed, sanitize the area where the nest was located. You may need to caulk or reseal any cracks or openings around your home to ensure more yellow jackets don’t return. You should also fill abandoned snake or rodent holes in the ground around your property.
Yellow Jacket Nest Treatment Methods And Products
Your method of treatment will depend on the severity of your yellow jacket problem.
If you choose to forgo hiring a professional and want to get rid of the yellow jacket nest on your own, follow the below treatment methods in order.
It is best to use these four methods together when trying to remove and then control a yellow jacket nest.
First, use an aerosol insecticide to treat the nest. Following the instructions, spray the aerosol directly into the nest hole or opening. Once you are done, let the aerosol dry for about ten to fifteen minutes before dusting it. The dust will keep eggs from hatching inside the nest.
Next, lay out baited traps around your property to lure any left over yellow jackets or wasps and trap them.
It’s important not to lay out baited traps near your home or where you plan to gather, as these are lures and may increase the chances of you or a loved one getting stung by a yellow jacket.
Best Products For Getting Rid Of A Yellow Jacket Nest
Aerosols are a popular and effective choice for yellow jacket control, but there are other products you can use as well.
Finding the right products for getting rid of a yellow jacket nest are key. Look for aerosols and dusts that are specifically designed for controlling wasps and wasp nests.
We have listed some of the most popular wasp aerosols, dusts, and traps below.
Stryker 54 Aerosol Contact Spray
One of the most popular and effective wasp aerosols to help control a yellow jacket nest is this Stryker 54 insect spray. It offers easy distribution and produces a heavy spray that fills the nest and kills yellow jackets on contact.
This product is meant for indoor and outdoor use, and can be used safely in the kitchen or bedroom areas as well.
Raid Wasp And Hornet Spray
Another wasp spray we like for getting rid of a yellow jacket nest is Raid wasp spray. This product shoots up to 22 feet, and when used properly can help fill the entire nest underground or in crevices and eliminate the wasp problem at its source.
It also kills on contact and lasts long enough to kill other yellow jackets who may return to the nest later.
Spectracide Wasp and Hornet Killer
Spectracide is an effective wasp spray that kills on contact but also helps control nests and future wasp infestations from recurring.
This product works not only on yellow jackets, but also their potential food sources. It is also a good insecticide to help rid your home and garden of pests like ants, scorpions, and hornets.
The spray shoots up to 27 feet, helping to treat the nest from a safe distance depending on the severity or size of the yellow jacket colony.
Tempo Dust Insecticide
Along with using aerosol sprays, we also recommend using a dust insecticide to cover the entrance of the yellow jacket nest to help kill any young inside the nest.
Tempo Dust is a popular dust used by experts to help effectively wipe out the yellow jacket nest and keep yellow jackets from returning.
Delta Dust Insecticide
Delta Dust is another wasp control product we like for helping to get rid of a yellow jacket nest once you have arersoled it. This product works using the active ingredient Deltamethrin and helps not only kill and prevent yellow jackets and yellow jacket nests, but also kills yellow jacket food sources like spiders, flies, ants, and more.
Drione Insecticide Dust
Drione is another insecticide dust that not only helps control yellow jackets but again eliminates their food source, which helps reduce the chances of yellow jackets returning to nest in your home or garden.
The active ingredient in this duster is pyrethrins, which is a natural insecticide made by chrysanthemum flowers. That said, this product is toxic to pets and should be used with caution.
Rescue Yellow Jacket Trap
My dog is allergic to wasps and bees and we use this yellow jacket trap by Rescue to help keep the yellow jackets and bees around our neighborhood and home under control.
The traps work effectively and are disposable, so when it’s time to renew it all you need to do is toss the old bag and put in a new one. The ingredients used in this yellow jacket trap are nontoxic and safe to use around homes with kids and pets. It’s also super easy to use and set up.
BioCare Wasp And Yellow Jacket Lure
My favorite thing about this yellow jacket lure by Biocare is that it only attracts wasps and yellow jackets and does not attract honey bees. It is also safe to use in homes with families and pets as it uses non-toxic ingredients.
This is a simple baited trap that helps reduce and control yellow jackets and wasps around your home, with each lure lasting between ten and fourteen days.
Remember, baited traps and lures do not get rid of the wasp nest, but they can help control the amount of yellow jackets flying around your property.
Yellow Jacket Facts, Habits, And Identifying Features
Catching the beginnings of a yellow jacket nest like this one helps you to stop a yellow jacket swarm from happening.
- German yellow jackets were fIrst discovered In Ohio In 1975 and are now considered the most dominant species of yellow jacket wasp in the United States.
- Only female yellow jackets can sting and they sting repeatedly when agitated.
- Unlike honey bees, yellow jackets have smooth stingers and do not lose their stingers or die after stinging.
- Yellow jackets are carnivores and use their stingers when hunting.
- Yellow jackets live in very large colonies of between 1,000 to 3,000 wasps.
- Yellow jackets build concealed nests that are most often underground, beneath shrubs and bushes, or in piping or hollowed spaces.
- Yellow jacket wasps grow to be between 5/8th and 1 inch long.
- Yellow jackets can be black and yellow or black and white.
- Yellow jackets are seasonal wasps and often die out in the winter, depending on the environment. However, some climates are especially habitable for these insects and they are able to survive all year round.
- Some people refer to yellow jackets as “Meat Bees” because they hunt protein-based foods like insects and bring them back to their nest to feed their young.
Preventing Future Yellow Jacket Nests Near Your Home
It’s difficult to enjoy your home with yellow jackets around, but following some simple steps can help you keep them away for good.
Yellow jackets are beneficial insects, which means having to get rid of an entire nest or colony is usually not ideal. That said, it’s also not ideal to have a giant yellow jacket nest in your backyard or in your home.
Luckily, you can avoid having to remove, relocate, or get rid of an entire yellow jacket nest by simply making the area around your home and property less inviting to them.
You can prevent future yellow jacket nest invasions by:
- Modifying The Habitat Beginning In The Spring
Stopping the problem before it starts will help you avoid having a yellow jacket problem in the summer. Yellow jackets are attracted to food sources like other insects, garbage, and fruit trees.
If you have fruit trees on your property, you may consider implementing certain pest management techniques to help reduce not only yellow jackets, but other pests they may feed on like spiders, caterpillars, and flies. You should also routinely clean up fallen fruit from fruit trees and seal garbage cans so wasps are not attracted by the scent.
- Set Traps And Lures Away From Your Home And Patio
Set different types of wasp traps like lures and baits that help control the number of yellow jackets swarming around your yard and home.
While these traps will not eliminate the problem or get rid of the nest (if there is one) they will still help control how many yellow jackets are present. Remember to set traps away from where you and your loved ones congregate so you don’t lure yellow jackets to you and end up getting stung.
- Fill Outside Rodent Holes/Caulk And Seal Openings
Last, make sure you go through your property and seal up any openings near doorways, attics, garages, walls, etc. You can also cover openings in poles or hollowed trees, and fill abandoned rodent or snake holes in your yard to help reduce the number of potential future nesting spots for yellow jackets.
If you have a chronic yellow jacket problem on your property, it may be time to contact a professional. Remember, while yellow jackets are beneficial insects and an important part of our ecosystem, they can be dangerous and should be handled with caution and care.
Best of luck!