Does anyone have a good way to kill off ground wasps (yellow jackets)? My folks are having a serious problem with them all over the yard. They are very aggressive wasps that build nests underground. When you disturb the nest, they swarm out and sting you multiple times. My dad hit a new nest and was stung over 20 times by them. Earth-friendly methods (i.e. not gasoline poured into the nest) would be preferred as they live right on a lake.
Getting rid of yellow jackets
If they are that big of a problem a pest control man might be the answer or your folks could contact their county extension agent to see if he/she has an answer.
BG, Here's what I did for only one nest of those nasty !#@&!!!s: First I had to locate the entrance to the nest. Once I had that nailed down I put a jar over the hole to prevent them from getting out and kept watch to see if there was a "back door". There wasn't one that I could find so I removed the jar at night and let them settle down. Next, I made a strong solution of pyrethrum/rotenone to pour down the hole - a couple of cups. I packed some cotton batting into the bottom of the jar and soaked it with the P/R solution. I poured the remainder down the hole real fast, inverted the jar over it and ran for my life. Seemed to do the trick. It must be done at night when they're all at home.
BG, a few years ago I went to see the (then) editor of Organic Gardening at a lecture. I think his name was Mike McGrath....anyway he had a great sense of humor and here was his organic way of killing yellow jackets. You will need a large glass bowl and a lawn chair.
1. Early in the morning before dawn set your glass bowl upside down over the entrance to the nest.
2. Set you lawn chair a short distance away where you can get a good view of the bowl.
3. Get comfortable in your lawn chair.
4. Watch the yellow jackets cook to death in the heat of the sun.
If you feel there is a large nest somewhere, then the best thing to do, is call a professional to take care of the problem. After all, they have all the protective gear that is needed. A yellow jacket nest is nothing to mess with on your own, as some people have died from yellow jacket stings. Any vibration what-so-ever will disturb their nest and will attack
NoH2O, I like your suggestion--completely organic and a little inhumane (but they are nasty and deserve it!)...I've dropped a few hints that they might oughta consider hiring a pro to do it, but I don't know that they will. My dad prefers to do things himself, especially when it comes to gardening and yardwork. The fact that they are semi-retired and living on a limited income doesn't help either.
Any other suggestions out there?
does anyone have any ideas how to keep yellowjackets away from hummingbird feeders? I am highly allergic to yellowjackets and occasionally would like to take closeup pictures of hummingbirds and don't want to get stung when I fill up the feeder.I had only one sting me about 15 years ago and didn't know I was allergic and I had to stop at a drugstore before I got home. My eyes and lips were swelling and I could feel my throat closing up. They gave me a bunch of Benadryl and called the Rescue Squad. I really need ideas.
You could try yellow jacket traps, but I'm not sure if they'd like those better than the hummingbird feeders or not.
The Best-1 hummingird feeders are your answer. They do not have the yellow flowers around the holes that attract wasps and bees, and somehow they are unable to feed from them. I have had them for many years and have never ever had a problem. Easy to clean, too, with no dripping.
Another method to get rid of yellow jackets that we recommend at Extension: At night, when they are in their nest, put a bunch of Sevin powder in a clear glass jar or bowl. Cover the hole, with the jar inverted. You can sprinkle some around the hole first, if you feel safe. When the yellow jackets try to leave in the morning, they will get the Sevin on them and it is highly toxic to bees and wasps. (Which is why you do not want to use it in your garden - bees are beneficial.) If they are able to crawl back down to the nest, they will kill other YJs that come into contact with them or the powder. Do not use a flashlight! BTW, yellow jackets are not considered beneficial. They do kill a few pest insects to feed their babies, but mostly they are scavengers, feeding on dead things, fruits, garbage, etc.. Unlike the paper wasps and the solitary wasps.
Boy, I haven't logged on to DG in quite some time,. but this one really interests me. I, too, got stung by a ground wasp this summer, which, with all his pals, took up summer residence under my raised bed. Pretty much eliminated the chance of harvesting much of my chard and some of my onions! I got stung, and ended up in the emergency room on 2 different IV drips for hours. I've been able to work in the rest of the garden, but it's a shame that half of two beds are now off limits to me. I'm waiting for cold weather, then I'll cover the hole with the large glass bowl. Love the idea of slow hot death.
YJ nests are annual. The entire colony dies when winter comes, and that nest decomposes and isn't used again. But in late summer,when the hive is at its peak, new queens and males are produced and after spending some time in the colony being fattened up in order to survive the winter, the new reproductives leave the colony and mate. The males die, and the newly fertilized queens find a protected place to overwinter. They'll emerge in the warm days of spring, find a suitable place for a new colony, and start the cycle all over again. She builds the first nest, a small one, lays eggs and feeds the resulting larvae. After they pupate and emerge as adults, they will continue to enlarge the nest and supply the food - they are the workers - sterile females. The queen just stays inside and lays eggs. Until autumn, when she dies, along with the entire colony.
So you're not going to get much of a show in cold weather. LOL! But what you might try is doing the kill now, while those reproductives are still inside, lowering your chances next year of incurring the same problem. And, bless his heart (Mike McGrath is one of my most favorite gardening writers), but I can't see how his suggestion would work. There can be 4,000 to 5,000 workers in that nest, and they'll just make another hole to exit from.
This message was edited Sep 1, 2007 4:43 PM
ceejaytown, thanks for some solid advice. Tomorrow's another day!
My Yellow Jackets have gone into my wall in the room where I keep my 2 pet birds. This happened 2 years ago in the same area. We thought we had sealed it off but they found a way in (appears they ate right through that foam stuff that you can spray and it hardens). It's a dilemma for me as I don't like to kill pollinators ( anything else for that matter) And the YJs prey on smaller insects that could be pests. But 2 years ago, when it got cold out they started to find a way to come into my house. They were coming in at the rate of about 20 per day. I'm a rather strange person as I find it very difficult to kill anything but in the end I had to vacuum them every day with a shop vac. I got stung 3 times. The 3rd time it became infected immediately. (another risk with yellow jacket strings, they carry lots of bacteria).
I can't go through that ordeal again and it's starting to get cool. I truly don't know what to do. I can't afford a professional right now. I hate using pesticides, especially in the wall of the room where I house my birds. I'm assuming they can get in the same way the others did. I've already seen quite a few come in. Any advise?
I don't know if there are any ways to get rid of YJ's other than pesticides, and honestly once they're in the house I think it's a job for the pros. Anything you try to do yourself is just going to be dangerous, if they've got a nest inside your wall you're either going to wind up getting a lot of stings, or you really won't get rid of very many of them.
And don't feel bad about getting rid of yellow jackets, they really don't have that many beneficial uses. They aren't an important pollinator, and while they may eat a few pesky insects, they really aren't an important contributor to that either. I don't think that anyone would classify them as a beneficial.
Skunks will dig them up and eat them.
Now, that is the trick to have the skunk do your bidding. Lol
Sometime ago, someone suggested spraying Pam around where the hummers feed. The yellow jackets avoid. I've tried it, but you must spray more than once. Every other day, maybe. Seems to help.
Really, the only thing that I know that works is gasoline. (and the skunks will still dig it up and eat it afterward) so I don't recomend it either, besides living on the water, it is not good to use.
One time we had a nest by the water and tried everything. DH poured gasoline, to my objections (but he was getting stung every day and it was a big problem)
His solution, was to light the gasoline after pouring.....well, guess what? There used to be a beaver house in front of our house, this house of course went underground and he set under the soil on fire. It was crazy. All these old sticks were dry enough to burn. You could hear the rummble as it got hotter and hotter. We used a hose and got the fire out. We did get rid of the yellow jackets, but.....
Just put this on the tried and do not do list. LOL
How to Manage Pests
Pests of Homes, Structures, People, and Pets
| More pests | About Pest Notes |
Yellowjackets and Other Social Wasps
In this Guideline:
Identification and life cycle
Injury or damage
Only a few of the very large number of wasp species in California live a social life; these species are referred to as social wasps. Some social wasps are predators for most or all of the year and provide a great benefit by killing large numbers of plant-feeding insects and nuisance flies; others are exclusively scavengers. Wasps become a problem only when they threaten to sting humans. One of the most troublesome of the social wasps is the yellowjacket. Yellowjackets, especially ground- and cavity-nesting ones such as the western yellowjacket, tend to defend their nests vigorously when disturbed. Defensive behavior increases as the season progresses and colony populations become larger while food becomes scarcer. In fall, foraging yellowjackets are primarily scavengers and they start to show up at picnics, barbecues, around garbage cans, at dishes of dog or cat food placed outside, and where ripe or overripe fruit are accessible. At certain times and places, the number of scavenger wasps can be quite large.
IDENTIFICATION AND LIFE CYCLE
In western states there are two distinct types of social wasps: yellowjackets and paper wasps. Yellowjackets are by far the most troublesome group. Paper wasps are much less defensive and rarely sting humans. They tend to shy away from human activity except when their nests are located near doors, windows, or other high traffic areas.
Nests of both yellowjacket and paper wasps typically are begun in spring by a single queen who overwinters and becomes active when the weather warms. She emerges in late winter/early spring to feed and start a new nest. From spring to midsummer nests are in the growth phase, and the larvae require large amounts of protein. Workers forage mainly for protein at this time (usually in the form of other insects) and for some sugars. By late summer, however, the colonies grow more slowly or cease growth and require large amounts of sugar to maintain the queen and workers. So foraging wasps are particularly interested in sweet things at this time.
Normally, yellowjacket and paper wasp colonies only live one season. In very mild winters or in coastal California south of San Francisco, however, some yellowjacket colonies survive for several years and become quite large.
The term yellowjacket refers to a number of different species of wasps in the genera Vespula and Dolichovespula (family Vespidae). Included in this group of ground-nesting species are the western yellowjacket, Vespula pensylvanica, which is the most commonly encountered species and is sometimes called the "meat bee," and seven other species of Vespula. Vespula vulgaris is common in rotted tree stumps at higher elevations and V. germanica (the German yellowjacket) is becoming more common in many urban areas of California, where it frequently nests in houses. These wasps tend to be medium sized and black with jagged bands of bright yellow (or white in the case of the aerial-nesting Dolichovespula [=Vespula] maculata) on the abdomen, and have a very short, narrow waist (the area where the thorax attaches to the abdomen).
Nests are commonly built in rodent burrows, but other protected cavities, like voids in walls and ceilings of houses, sometimes are selected as nesting sites. Colonies, which are begun each spring by a single reproductive female, can reach populations of between 1,500 and 15,000 individuals, depending on the species. The wasps build a nest of paper made from fibers scraped from wood mixed with saliva. It is built as multiple tiers of vertical cells, similar to nests of paper wasps, but enclosed by a paper envelope around the outside that usually contains a single entrance hole. If the rodent hole is not spacious enough, yellowjackets will increase the size by moistening the soil and digging. Similar behavior inside a house sometimes leads to a wet patch that develops into a hole in a wall or ceiling.
Immature yellowjackets are white, grublike larvae that become white pupae. The pupae develop adult coloring just before they emerge as adult wasps. Immatures are not normally seen unless the nest is torn open or a sudden loss of adult caretakers leads to an exodus of starving larvae.
Aerial-nesting yellowjackets, Dolichovespula arenaria and D. maculata, build paper nests that are attached to the eaves of a building or are hanging from the limb of a tree. The entrance is normally a hole at the bottom of the nest. These aerial nesters do not become scavengers at the end of the season, but they are extremely defensive when their nests are disturbed. Defending D. arenaria sometimes bite and/or sting, simultaneously. Wasp stingers have no barbs and can be used repeatedly, especially when the wasp gets inside clothing. As with any stinging incident, it is best to leave the area of the nest site as quickly as possible if wasps start stinging.
Paper wasps such as Polistes fuscatus aurifer, P. apachus, and P. dominulus are large (1-inch long), slender wasps with long legs and a distinct, slender waist. Background colors vary, but most western species tend to be golden brown, or darker, with large patches of yellow or red. Preferring to live in or near orchards or vineyards, they hang their paper nests in protected areas, such as under eaves, in attics, or under tree branches or vines. Each nest hangs like an open umbrella from a pedicel (stalk) and has open cells that can be seen from beneath the nest. White, legless, grublike larvae sometimes can be seen from below. Paper wasp nests rarely exceed the size of an outstretched hand and populations vary between 15 to 200 individuals. Most species are relatively unaggressive, but they can be a problem when they nest over doorways or in other areas of human activity, such as fruit trees.
Mud daubers are black and yellow, thread-waisted, solitary wasps that build a hard mud nest, usually on ceilings and walls, attended by a single female wasp. They belong to the family Sphecidae and are not social wasps but may be confused with them. They do not defend their nests and rarely sting. During winter, you can safely remove the nests without spraying.
INJURY OR DAMAGE
Concern about yellowjackets is based on their persistent, pugnacious behavior around food sources and their aggressive colony defense. Stinging behavior is usually encountered at nesting sites, but scavenging yellowjackets sometimes will sting if someone tries to swat them away from a potential food source. When scavenging at picnics or other outdoor meals, wasps will crawl into soda cans and cause stings on the lips, or inside the mouth or throat.
Responses to wasp stings vary from only short-term, intense sensations to substantial swelling and tenderness, some itching, or life-threatening allergic responses. All these reactions are discussed in detail in Pest Notes: Bee and Wasp Stings (see "References"). Of specific concern is a condition that results from multiple-sting encounters, sometimes unfamiliar to attending health professionals, that is induced by the volume of foreign protein injected and the tissue damage caused by destructive enzymes in wasp venom. Red blood cells and other tissues in the body become damaged; tissue debris and other breakdown products are carried to the kidneys, to be eliminated from the body. Too much debris and waste products can cause blockages in the kidneys, resulting in renal insufficiency or renal failure. Patients in this condition require medical intervention, even dialysis.
Most social wasps provide an extremely beneficial service by eliminating large numbers of other pest insects through predation and should be protected and encouraged to nest in areas of little human or animal activity. Although many animals prey on social wasps (including birds, reptiles, amphibians, skunks, bears, raccoons, spiders, preying mantids, and bald-faced hornets), none provides satisfactory biological control in home situations.
The best way to prevent unpleasant encounters with social wasps is to avoid them. If you know where they are, try not to go near their nesting places. Wasps can become very defensive when their nest is disturbed. Be on the lookout for nests when outdoors. Wasps that are flying directly in and out of a single location are probably flying to and from their nest.
Scavenging wasps will not usually become a problem if there is no food around to attract them. When nuisance wasps are present in the outdoor environment, keep foods (including pet food) and drinks covered or inside the house and keep garbage in tightly sealed garbage cans. Once food is discovered by wasps, they will continue to hunt around that location long after the source has been removed.
If wasp nests must be eliminated, it is easiest and safest to call for professional help. In some areas of California, personnel from a local Mosquito and Vector Control District may be available to remove nests. To determine if this service is available in your area, call the California Mosquito and Vector Control Association at (916) 440-0826.
If a rapid solution to a severe yellowjacket problem is essential, seek the assistance of a professional pest control operator who can use microencapsulated baits to control these pests. Do-it-yourself options include trapping wasps in a baited trap designed for that purpose, early-season removal of nests, or spraying the nest or nesting site with an insecticide labeled for that use.
Trapping wasps is an ongoing effort that needs to be initiated in spring and continued into summer and fall, especially when the yellowjacket population was large the previous year. In spring there is a 30- to 45-day period when new queens first emerge before they build nests. Trapping queens during this period has the potential to provide an overall reduction in the yellowjacket population for the season, and a study is currently underway to test this theory in some California Mosquito and Vector Control districts (see "Online References"). The more traps put out in spring on an area-wide basis to trap queens, the greater the likelihood of reducing nests later in the summer. Usually one trap per acre is adequate in spring for depletion trapping of queens; in fall, more traps may be necessary to trap scavenging wasps, depending on the size of the population. There are two types of wasp traps: lure and water traps.
Lure traps are available for purchase at many retail stores that sell pest control supplies and are easiest to use. They work best as queen traps in late winter and spring. In summer and fall they may assist in reducing localized foraging workers, but they do not eliminate large populations. Lure traps contain a chemical that attracts yellowjackets into the traps, but common lures such as heptyl butyrate are not equally attractive to all species. Proteins such as lunchmeat can be added as an attractant and are believed to improve catches.
During spring, baited lure traps should have the chemical bait changed every 6 to 8 weeks. In summer, change the bait every 2 to 4 weeks; change bait more frequently when temperatures are high. Meats must be replaced more frequently because yellowjackets are not attracted to rotting meat. Also, periodically check the trap to remove trapped yellowjackets and make sure workers are still attracted to the trap.
Water Traps. Water traps are generally homemade and consist of a 5-gallon bucket, string, and protein bait (turkey ham, fish, or liver works well; do not use cat food because it may repel the yellowjackets after a few days). The bucket is filled with soapy water and the protein bait is suspended 1 to 2 inches above the water. (The use of a wide mesh screen over the bucket will help prevent other animals from reaching and consuming the bait.) After the yellowjacket removes the protein, it flies down and becomes trapped in the water and drowns. Like the lure trap, these traps also work best as queen traps in late winter to early spring. In summer and fall they may assist in reducing localized foraging workers but usually not to acceptable levels. Place them away from patio or picnic areas so wasps aren't attracted to your food as well.
Discouraging or Eliminating Nests
Early in the season, knocking down newly started paper wasp nests will simply cause the founding female to go elsewhere to start again or to join a neighboring nest as a worker. As there is little activity around wasp nests when they are first starting, they are very hard to find. Wasps are more likely to be noticed later after nests and populations grow. Nest removal for controlling subterranean or cavity-dwelling yellowjackets is not practical because the nests are underground or otherwise inaccessible.
Aerosol formulations of insecticides on the market labeled for use on wasp and hornet nests can be effective against both yellowjackets and paper wasps, but they must be used with extreme caution. Wasps will attack applicators when sensing a poison applied to their nests, and even the freeze-type products are not guaranteed to stop all wasps that come flying out. It is prudent to wear protective clothing that covers the whole body, including gloves and a veil over the face. In addition, you need to wear protective eyewear and other clothing to protect yourself from pesticide hazards. Wasps are most likely to be in the nest at night. But even after dark and using formulations that shoot an insecticide stream up to 20 feet, stinging incidents are likely. Underground nests can be quite a distance from the visible entrance and the spray may not get back far enough to hit the wasps. Partially intoxicated, agitated wasps are likely to be encountered at some distance from the nest entrance, even on the day following an insecticidal treatment. Hiring a pest control professional will reduce risks to you and your family; in some areas of California, this service may be available through your local Mosquito and Vector Control District.
Seal entry points. Solitary wasps in the home can be a nuisance; daily sightings of wasps in the home may indicate inside nest building, and more attention to the problem is required. Searching for and sealing off their point of entry is the best line of defense. Check your house for unsealed vents, torn screens, cracks around windows and door frames and open dampers. Observe the flight path of a wasp, especially in the morning, which may reveal the entry/exit point.
Remove food sources. In spring and early summer, wasps are attracted to protein foods. Any food left outdoors, such as pet food, picnic scraps, open garbage containers or uncovered compost piles should be removed or covered. Wasps imprint food sources, and will continue to search an area for some time after the food has been removed.
In late summer and early fall, the wasp food preference turns to the sweet. Their behavior is also more aggressive. Open cans of pop, fruit juice, fallen apples beneath fruit trees and other sweet food sources will attract wasps. Be sure to cover drinks and open food containers, keep a lid on the compost and avoid walking barefoot near fruit trees. Remove any fallen fruit rotting on the ground.
Avoid swatting. Swatting and squashing wasps is counterproductive. When a wasp is squashed, a chemical (pheromone) is released which attracts and incites other nearby wasps. It's best to walk away from a hovering wasp.
Avoid wearing bright colours or floral patterns. If you look like a big flower, you may be attracting the curious wasp looking for nectar.
Minimize use of perfumes and other strong scents. In the later part of the summer, wasps are attracted to sweet smells.
Wasps building nests in your bird house? This common problem can be minimized by lining the under-roof area with aluminum foil. Use a staple gun to attach. Another option is to rub the under-roof area liberally with bar soap - ordinary soap like Ivory soap will do. One application can last through an annual wasp season.
There are varying opinions on the effectiveness of using traps to reduce the wasp population in specific areas. This is partly due to the distance wasps will travel when foraging. Wasps have been known to fly from 300 to 1000 yards (meters) from their nest in search of food. Traps are more likely to be useful in small areas.
Setting out traps in the early spring, when only a few wasps may be evident, can be most effective. This is because these early season wasps are usually queens, and it's estimated that each trapped queen represents several thousand worker wasps in the late summer. You can buy wasp traps or make your own.
Make a simple Water Trap
Use a razor knife to cut the top from a 2-liter plastic pop bottle. Cut just above the shoulder of the bottle. Discard the screw top. Fill with water about halfway. Coat the neck with jam, invert it and set back on the bottle. Use two small pieces
of tape to hold it in place.
PICTURE IN LINK AT THE BOTTOM
Wasps will go down the funnel to get the jam, but will find it difficult to get out. Most will drop into the water and drown.
A few drops of dish soap in the water will make it hard for the wasps to tread water, and will hasten their demise. (You can also add a 1/4 cup of vinegar to the water to discourage honeybees from entering the trap in search of water.)
Note: In the spring and early summer, wasps are attracted to protein-based baits; use jam or other sweet baits in later summer and into fall.
Empty the trap daily! As more wasps are caught, they create a raft on which other wasps can survive for a considerable time. Some of these wasps then find purchase on the plastic of the bottle and eventually crawl out. The longer the trap is untended, the more wasps will manage to escape, which may result in swarming.
The trap will be most effective if set about 4' above ground.
I have never failed to eradicate the yellowjacket colony completely and quickly using the following method: make note of the location of the nest entrance. This is usually a hole in the ground about 1/2 to 3/4 inch in diameter with the wasps actively going in and out. Wait til night, when they're all in the nest. Place about 1 teaspoon of powdered 5% Sevin in and around the hole. That's it! The colony is done for.
Of course, my most frequent way of finding the nest is with the lawnmower! After a few stings, try to see where the buggers are flying in and out. If they're still agitated, don't approach closer than about 50 feet or they will come after you again. But, if you can locate the hole, it will be safe to approach at night. And, the Sevin works, I guarantee it.
I've never found a nest although I putter about my ornamental garden every day. Yesterday there were many, many around my hummingbird feeder, so this morning I puffed them with diatomaceous earth to scatter them and then took away the dripping feeder. So what to do if I find no nest?
In my experience, yellowjackets are pesky but not particularly dangerous away from the nest. They will sting if you swat one while is on your neck, but they will not attack unmolested. So, unless you find a nest that is somewhere you need to weed or mow, just leave them alone and they'll leave you alone. They won't drink much hummingbird nectar.
They'll often fly around away from the nest looking for food, generally ones you see just flying around aren't by their nest, the way I've always found the nests is that I'll be gardening somewhere, and they'll send a couple out to buzz me. I get out of the way of course, but then watch as it gets closer to evening where they're coming in and going out. You can sometimes see where they're coming and going from earlier in the day too, but at night they all come back to the nest and it becomes more obvious where it is. Chances are the nest isn't in your yard or you would have found it by now (either that or it's in a really out of the way part of the yard that you never go to) If it's not in an area that you're in frequently, there's no need to get rid of it because that nest only gets used for one season.
Here's a trick I used with success when camping at Lake Tahoe as a kid (when the yellowjackets get ridiculous)- it sounds wacky but it worked: Hang a piece of hotdog about an inch above a pie pan of soapy water. When the yellowjackets eat their fill they become heavy and drop down away from the meat in order to take flight. As they touch the water their wings get coated with soapy water which makes them unable to fly and they simply drown in the soapy water. It worked pretty well, you just have to replace the hotdog as they eat it down pretty quickly. Also, remove the dead yellow jackets or their well-fed buddies will simply walk over them to the side of the 'pool' and exit safely.
Here's something that works well, and will tip the scale in your favor when trying to catch/kill a yellow jacket in your house, car, etc. ....Spray them with cheap hairspray - Final Net works great. It won't hurt your kids or anyone else and it makes their wings sticky so they can't fly. Then you can kill them easily. :-D .......I hate those things!