If it’s the size of a bee but actually a wasp, chances are pretty good you’re looking at a yellow jacket. These social wasps are found on all continents except Antarctica but are especially common in North America – and the southeastern portion of it, in particular. These stinging insects aren’t particularly aggressive – they won’t go out of their way to hunt you, your kids or your pets down, but they can become downright scary when they feel their colonies are in danger. And since a typical colony can house up to 5,000 of these insects, on average, there’s plenty of reasons to not want them near your home or on your property.
Yellow Jackets Causing You Problems?
Are you having yellow jacket problems? Call Critter Control today at (574) 825-1079 in South Bend and Elkhart,
or (260) 632-5106 in the Fort Wayne area and our trained staff will be there to help with your yellow jacket and stinging insect problems.
Yellow Jacket Appearance
As their name would suggest, yellow jackets are characterized by a yellow and black striped color scheme, somewhat similar to that of a bee. Yellow jackets have a slimmer, less round profile than the average bee and much more prominent antennae. They may also be confused with hornets due to their shape, but the hornets have larger heads and a longer profile than yellow jackets, putting these insects firmly in the middle of the two other common stinging insects.
Like other wasps, yellow jackets possess four wings, the frontmost of which fold lengthwise when resting.
Yellow Jacket Habitat
You’ll see these critters most commonly in the late spring through early fall months. You’ll see them around your home, or during picnic outings, hoping to bring back some food. In the spring, they mostly forage to feed the larvae that exist in their nests, and in the fall, to feed themselves. Yellow jackets are no slouches when it comes to finding their preferred fare, often traveling up to one mile from the site of their nest.
They construct their nests in protected areas, be it high in a treetop covered by dense foliage, in an underground cavity or within the walls of a building where they can exit and enter undetected. Nests can have multiple entrances and exits – constructed by the wasps themselves or offered naturally as a feature by the building, tree or cavity they’ve selected.
Identifying a Yellow Jacket Nest
If you see a yellow jacket on your property, you may not have a yellow jacket problem. Seeing many, however, can indicate a possible infestation. Since they travel long distances for food, their home nest could be anywhere near where you see them. The surest way to identify a yellow jacket nest is to follow them home.
Yellow jackets tend to follow the same flight path and pattern back to the nest. Leave out some bait – either pungent, sweet jelly or jam or something meaty and irresistible to these carnivorous critters. Wait for them to show up and follow them back to their nesting spot. If the flight path of the yellow jacket you’re tailing leaves your property, chances are good you don’t have a yellow jacket problem to deal with, but rather that one of your neighbors does.
Are Yellow Jackets Dangerous?
Yellow jackets aren’t inherently dangerous, but those allergic to bees and wasps can experience a life-threatening reaction to a sting from one. Those who aren’t allergic will still feel pain and discomfort from stings and bites, especially since they don’t lose their stingers and can sting multiple times. Yellow jackets are most often provoked to sting and bite when they feel they or their colony are in danger – so use caution when tracing a yellow jacket back to a suspected nest on your property.
Yellow jackets can also cause property damage by chewing through plasterboard and other building material as they work to construct their nests. Because the damage is indiscriminate and not limited to any one material, you may face a hefty repair bill when dealing with a yellow jacket colony that’s taken up prolonged residence in your home, garage, outbuilding, business or yard.
What to Do About a Yellow Jacket Nest
The natural cycle of a yellow jacket nest is that only the queen survives winter. You may wish to wait it out until the first good frost to take preventative measures against another colony of these critters next year. Exclusion of them from your property, such as sealing up cracks and crevices, is a good way to ensure they don’t return.
Although the removal of nests can be done, it’s not without casualties and isn’t always the most humane option. If possible, remove nests in early spring or late fall when fewer larvae and young insects are present.
Yellow jackets require careful consideration to eliminate. It’s best to use any pesticidal sprays when the maximum number of workers have returned to the nest after dark – 45 minutes after dusk or later. Not only are the most insects back in the nest during this time, but the colonies are often calmer and less aggressive due to an inability to see in the dark.
Note that less aggressive doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll escape from the endeavor unscathed – yellow jackets will bite and sting en masse if their colony is threatened, so if a DIY pesticidal spray or other means of removal or elimination doesn’t work, you may be in for a rough, painful time.
How Critter Control Can Help
The experts at Critter Control can help identify whether you do, in fact, have a yellow jacket problem on your property or if they’re coming in from an adjoining property or space. They can help trace the location of nests and identify ways to make your property less appealing and hospitable to yellow jackets.
Additionally, Critter Control’s wildlife professionals can help eliminate or remove yellow jacket colonies from your home or property, and determine the best way to deal with this year’s crop of insects – and how best to keep them from making a repeat visit next year.
If you suspect you might have a yellow jacket infestation or problem, give us a call at (574) 825-1079. We’re standing by to help you identify and handle these social wasps as quickly, painlessly and humanely as possible.