Thursday, May 31st, 2012...5:52 pm

Yellow Jacket Wasps

The New 2007 Model by Mr. Greenjeans

TheGardenLady recently attended a lecture about yellow jacket wasps, or simply known as wasps in other  English speaking countries. In England there is a wasp watch. Most of the yellow jacket wasps are black and yellow. But don’t confuse them with the black and yellow honey bee. Yellow Jackets are wasps not bees and are NOT covered with the tan-brown dense hair that is on the honey bee worker. A very good article on yellow jacket wasps can be found on the bug info site.

Thirst by Jason A. Samfield

Do you sometimes wonder why God created certain insects like Yellow Jackets which can be very aggressive especially in the fall when you are picnicking? Well, they are important predators of pest insects. Yellow jackets and other wasps feed heavily on insects – crickets, caterpillars, grubs, or other bugs slow enough not to scamper away. So they are good to have. Unless, you are allergic to their sting, try to tolerate Yellow Jackets as long as you can before they get really aggressive- which generally happens in the fall. They love human food. All the females sting.  And the Yellow Jacket sting can be quite nasty even if you are not allergic.

Where do yellow jackets live? They may create their paper nests in either the ground or the air, hanging a nest from a branch of a tree or under the eaves of a house, or, very commonly, in walls or attics or crawlspaces of homes. This is when they become most dangerous to people, and many times they will chew right through the walls and get into the house. Or they may make their nest in a hole in the soil.  When you have large infestations of these wasps, the recommendation is to call a professional exterminating company.

ThisGardenLady had two large yellow jacket nests in the ground near the front and side of her house. I found out they were there, not by seeing them at first, but because of their aggressiveness in attacking me. I called an exterminator who took care of the problem after the second try; it was such a large nest.

Some of the things you can do to your yard to keep yellow jackets from building their nests there:

Keep your yard clean of debris such as eliminating piles of yard or lawn trimmings, piles of lumber, or other unnecessary debris on the ground to eliminate much of where the wasp might make a nest. Clean up fruit from fruit trees that has fallen on the ground. This will take away a food source and attractant and help keep yellow jackets from congregating in your yard. This is especially important in late summer and fall.

Clean garbage cans, tabletops, and other surfaces where food is or has been. Even a little juice on your picnic table, if not completely wiped up, will attract yellow jackets. lf you like to barbecue outdoors, see that the area is kept scrupulously clean.

Watch What You Wear! – Yellow jackets may be attracted to certain colors (yellow, orange, or purple seem to be favorites) or odors, such as perfume, cologne or hair spray. Commercial insect repellents do not seem to do much to deter yellow jackets.

And get some yellow jacket traps to hang and trap the yellow jackets. Do not hang the traps closer than 20 feet from where you will be seated. This is a good time to buy the traps when they are now in the hardware or box stores. Later in the fall when the yellow jackets are at their most aggressive form, the stores may be sold out of them. TheGardenLady likes the traps that are not toxic. You bait them yourself by putting in some apple juice or apple cider vinegar in the container. The yellow jacket wasps love apple flavor so they will go into the trap for the juice and then fall into the liquid. But they won’t be able to figure out how to get out of the container and will die a happy death by drowning in their favorite sweet beverage.

Or if you want, you might make your own traps with leftover plastic soda bottles and use apple juice or cider or apple cider vinegar or even apple schnapps.  See here.

Don’t try to smash them to kill yellow jacket wasps. It seems that this can infuriate the other yellow jacket wasps to attack.  See here.

Remember to let the yellow jackets live as long as you can so they can benefit your garden. Let them work for you. However, if the number of yellow jackets is intolerable or it is the fall when they get aggressive, then you can put out the traps. Never put the traps too close to where people will be. You don’t want the wasps to come near you when they smell the sweet smell in the trap.

Usually if there is a harsh winter most of the yellow jackets in the hive will die; mainly the queen will live to start another hive in the spring. But if there isn’t a harsh winter the yellow jackets can live on. This winter many of us had a very mild winter, so be aware that the yellow jacket hives may be larger this summer. If you have a large hive in your house or on your property call in the professionals.

If you are allergic to wasp stings, TheGardenLady recommends your seeing your physician immediately.

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