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What are Yellow Jackets?

Summer is the perfect time to have picnics outside, but your tasty treats aren’t just appealing to your family. Yellow jackets are attracted to food sources that are sweet or contain protein. When these stinging insects invade your picnic, you’ll need to know how to control the situation. Check out how you can identify yellow jackets so that you can effectively eliminate an infestation.


Yellow Jacket

Yellow jackets are members of the wasp family. There are roughly 16 species of yellow jackets in the United States. Yellow jackets are known for their black and yellow body, but they can occasionally have white markings instead of yellow.

They grow between 3/5″-5/8″. They have a thin waist and wings that are as long as their body. Though they are often mistaken for bees, their lack of hair can help you tell them apart.

Some species of yellow jackets have distinct markings that separate them from other yellow jackets. The German yellowjacket species has black dots on its face and the western yellowjacket has a yellow ring around its eyes.


Underground yellow jacket nest

Like other wasps, yellow jackets construct nests made up of hundreds of hexagonal cells. These nests are made from cellulose and have a paper-like appearance.

The nests are large enough to house 1000s of yellow jackets. If temperatures stay warm, the nest can continue to expand even through winter months.

Most yellow jackets build nests underground. They can be in sidewalk cracks, under steps, or at the base of trees. Other yellow jackets will place nests in bushes. The location and color of nests vary by species.

The eastern yellow jacket prefers to nest underground, and their nests are usually brown with a reddish hue. However, the German yellow jacket prefers to build nests in cavities.


Yellow jacket

Yellow jackets are most active in late summer and early fall. Queen yellow jackets overwinter and emerge in the spring ready to build nests and lay eggs.

Yellow jackets are social insects that live in fairly large colonies. Colony members communicate with one another through pheromones. These chemicals alert other yellow jackets to danger or food sources.

Yellow jackets eat a variety of pests as well as sweet items like fruit and soda when they can find an open can.

These wasps are found throughout the United States, but certain species are more frequently spotted in different locations. The eastern yellow jacket is the most frequently encountered species of yellow jackets and can be found throughout the eastern parts of the United States.


Yellow jacket on person

Yellow jackets are extremely territorial and aggressive when it comes to protecting their nest. When they feel threatened, they will sting. Their stingers are barbed, but because they are small, they are able to sting several times.

These stings are painful and can lead to swelling and redness. Like other wasp stings, their stings aren’t usually dangerous. However, allergic reactions can occur. If you experience swelling of the face, throat, and lips or are having trouble breathing, it is important to seek medical attention.

Yellow jackets don’t typically cause damage to homes. However, they have been known to occasionally damage dry wood when chewing it. Yellow jacket infestations can be identified by the presence of yellow jackets or their nests.

Prevention and Treatment

Wasp & Hornet Killer

Yellow jackets are attracted to our food, especially sweet ingredients and proteins. To help keep them out of your yard, it’s best to eliminate these food sources.

If you have a meal outside, leave your food and drinks covered. Make sure to clean up all trash when you’re done.

Regularly remove trash and keep your trash cans covered.

Check your screens and repair any tears so these stinging insects can’t sneak inside.

When dealing with a yellow jacket infestation, it’s important to be careful when treating the nest. Maggie’s Farm Simply Effective Wasp & Hornet Killer is a foaming jet spray that reaches up to 18 feet and coats the nest. This will help keep you a safe distance away from the nest.

Apply when the yellow jackets are least active—at dusk, before dawn, or at night. Make sure to spray inside the entrance hole to kill colony members as well as to repel other yellow jackets from returning to the nest.

Your outdoor fun doesn’t have to be ruined by yellow jackets. Make sure to keep your yard clean and free of food. If yellow jackets or other pests are giving you a fit, we want to help! For a more environmentally and family-friendly solution, check out our Maggie’s Farm Simply Effective Pest Control products.

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