Safe Control of Yellow Jackets and Wasps
A wasp is defined as any insect that is a member of the Hymenoptera order and is not an ant or bee. Yellow Jackets and other wasp species are some of the most common home and garden pests throughout the United States. Although stinging wasps like yellow jackets, paper wasps and hornets may become a hazard late in the summer and into fall, they truly are beneficial insects and should be preserved unless they present a direct danger. Most are efficient predators and help regulate pest insects, including caterpillars, within a few hundred feet of their nest sites. Some of the most common species include:
- Yellow Jackets – distinctive horizontal black and yellow bands, narrow waist (petiole), large nests in covered areas or under overhangs
- Tarantula Hawks – some of the largest wasps known, metallic blue/black to greenish coloration, nectar feeders, solitary
- Paper Wasps – slender bodies, long legs, variable coloration (mostly black to dark brown with yellow markings), feed on nectar and pest insects, medium sized nests in protected areas
- Mud Wasps (Mud Daubers) – primarily black body with variable yellow markings, long stretched out segment connecting the thorax and abdomen, solitary, individual nests that can be clustered
Identification & Life Cycle:
Similar to bees, most species of wasps are solitary and nest alone or in small groups. These solitary wasps are generally less aggressive than social wasps and pose little threat to humans unless they are disturbed. Many solitary wasps parasitize pest insects and have become valuable for use in horticultural and agricultural settings for their use in controlling whiteflies, aphids and more.
Social wasps encompass any wasp species that form nests with a queen and workers that do not reproduce. Most social wasps are members of the family Vespidae and feed on pollen and nectar; however, some also scavenge and/or are predaceous of other insects. Wasps remain active from spring through the onset of winter when most colonies die. Queens overwinter once mating has completed and remain dormant until temperatures trigger emergence. Once emerged, queen wasps begin construction of a new nest.
Controlling Wasps & Yellow Jackets:
If a wasp or multiple are spotted, inspect the nearby areas for any other wasp activity or the presence of a nest. If possible, identify what kind of wasp it is. Pay close attention to the behavior of the wasp, their food source and their habitat. Inspection is key to determining the best course of action for control. Make sure to use red filters on flashlights when searching for wasp activity to minimize any further agitation. Any treatment should be made at night to maximize effectiveness of the control measure and to reduce risk for the person applying the treatment. Wear protective clothing whenever treating a wasp infestation (long-sleeved shirt, pants, eyewear, gloves, etc.).
• Only seek out nests for treatment if they are in a location where the stinging insect may be hazardous to people. If the infestation appears severe, call a pest removal specialist for treatment options.
• Insecticide sprays are effective as contact sprays and most labelled insecticides cause near instantaneous death. Follow all labelled instructions for wasp and hornet control. Nest treatments should ONLY be done at night.
In the fall, use a Yellow Jacket Trap and Lure to attract the wasps away from where you wish to eat on your own property. Put it out several hours before you begin to set out your food, and keep your food as covered as you can. If they only find the trap and lure, then you will enjoy your time outdoors and be able to repeat the experience many times.
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