March 28, 2022

Preventing Yellowjacket Wasps | The Essential Guide

As the air gets warmer, hosts of insects start buzzing around your yard. Butterflies slowly drift from flower to flower while bumblebees clumsily hop around the clover. 

Thankfully, many aggressive insects that flourish during the sweltering summer months aren’t as prevalent. Yellowjacket wasps won’t become a significant problem until early autumn or late summer when other insect populations drop off.

While yellowjacket wasps shouldn't be a substantial worry this spring, it's never too late to think of ways to deter them from nesting on your property. Through this guide, you'll learn everything you need to know about preventing yellowjacket wasps in your home and what to do if you do spot a nest in your yard.  

What do Yellowjacket Wasps Look Like?

Two different types of genera, Dolichovespula and Vespula, are referred to as yellowjackets. All species tend to look the same, with the latter portion of their body bearing a yellow coloration. 

The two genera have visual differences that set them apart. Yellowjackets of the Dolichovespula genus have longer faces, while the Vespula have shorter faces with their eyes sitting close to their mandibles. Check out this video that dissects the differences between the two. 

While their yellow and black stripes may resemble a bee, yellowjackets lack the tiny body hairs found on bees. Visually, yellowjackets are incredibly slender, with their thorax and abdomen joined together at their narrow waists. Bees have smaller wings and are shorter and bulkier.

The insects' temperaments also help distinguish bees and yellowjackets. Between the two, yellowjackets are more confrontational than bees. Honey bees are territorial, but yellowjackets are highly aggressive insects. 

Hornets are another type of wasp that you can confuse with a yellowjacket. The two wasps generally share a similar appearance, but hornets can grow much larger than the average yellowjacket. The European hornet is the only hornet species found in the United States as the bald-faced hornet is actually a type of yellowjacket. 

What is the Yellowjacket Wasps Life Cycle?

Yellowjacket wasps typically do not live longer than a year. Established colonies will die out as the weather gets colder in the winter, and fertilized queens will hibernate in anticipation of spring. 

A queen yellowjacket lays eggs that hatch into the workers. Like ants, all workers are infertile female yellowjackets who provide for the queen and the hive. You will see them foraging or buzzing around their nest. 

During the late summer months, the queen produces male yellowjackets and fertile females. These wasps then exit the hive to mate in the fall. All males die after mating, while the fertilized females hibernate until they continue this cycle again. 

Queens will find warm areas to lie dormant like fallen logs, piles of wood, or inside homes. As spring approaches, she will start crafting a hive large enough to house her young. 

While yellowjackets are most prevalent during the fall, no colony can withstand freezing temperatures. The former queen and workers die after the temperature drops, and the weather remains consistently cold. Nests in warmer climates can stay around longer and grow significantly larger. 

Where do Yellowjacket Wasps Nest? 

Knowing how to spot a yellowjacket nest will ensure you don’t accidentally stumble across one. Typically, they nest underground, preferring to build their intricate colonies beneath the dirt. Hornets and paper wasps prefer to construct their hives out in the open. 

While this usually keeps hives from taking over places around your home, these underground nests aren’t as easy to spot. If you’re unsure of what to look for, you could accidentally walk right up to their doorstep. 

These pests are easily disturbed by movement and will attack anything they see as a threat. You may come face to face with a group of angry wasps if you stray too close. Even a nearby lawnmower can cause them to leave their nests in anger. 

Sometimes, yellowjacket wasps nest in hollow trees, garbage cans, or even spaces in your home. You could find nests in garages, attics, and under porches and decks. They are constructed by the yellowjackets chewing up wood fibers, creating something akin to honeycomb. 

Thomas Mühl on Pixabay

What Attracts Yellowjacket Wasps?

Yellowjacket wasps appreciate your flower garden as much as you do. While bees are known as excellent pollinators, yellowjackets can also lend a hand. They are more prevalent at the end of summer or the fall, but they can still maintain heavy populations during the spring and early summer when flowers bloom.

If you have any plants or fruits, yellowjackets could congregate in these areas. You could even find a yellowjacket snacking on a piece of fruit you’re trying to snag. 

Standing water can also entice them to nest nearby. These tiny pests need reliable sources of water, so leaving uncovered buckets or bowls filled with water will encourage and sustain the wasps.

Because they love a sweet snack, yellowjacket wasps will turn towards any sweet substance you may have around. Besides fruits and flowers, they will gladly feast on drinks in open cans or glasses. 

Your picnic isn’t safe either. If yellowjackets are nearby, you may have an uninvited guest who will stop by for a bite. Weekend cookouts won’t automatically cause them to build a nest, but they could make existing wasps curious.

When yellowjackets can’t find food in nature, they will turn towards other methods. You may find some wasps buzzing around your trashcan, looking for their next meal. They may even quickly nest in an uncovered can or beneath the lid of your loosely covered trash.

Preventing Yellowjacket Wasps in your Home

Preventing yellowjacket wasps is much easier than dealing with a large nest. While these pests are an issue during fall, new queens begin emerging in the spring to lay eggs. Knowing how to discourage these pests can help ensure they won’t take up residence in your home. 

Eliminate Yellowjacket Wasps Food Sources

The easiest way to prevent yellowjacket wasps is by eliminating their potential food sources. They commonly feed on other small insects and also gravitate toward sweets and proteins. 

When you eat outside, wrap up trays of meat and fruits, so they will not attempt to take anything back to the hive. Make sure to cover your open drinks, too. The wasps will be drawn to sweet substances like juice, soda, or alcohol and could crawl into cans and glasses. 

Avoid planting fruits and vegetables too close to your home. You can’t easily move your garden after you’ve cultivated it, but try arranging your plants further away from your house the next planting season. 

The wasps will want to feed on the small insects that graze on your plants. They may even taste some of the sweet fruits themselves. While they help eliminate harmful pests found in your garden, planting near your home could result in an increased presence of wasps. 

Keep Your Yard Clean

Because yellowjacket wasps primarily build their nests in the ground, you’re more likely to find them in your yard or other outdoor structures. Keep your yard tidy, so you can easily spot a nest or encourage them to build elsewhere. 

Start by removing any log or leaf piles as the wasps could potentially nest here. Cleaning all debris out of your yard will ensure queen yellowjackets have fewer places to hide during the winter months. 

Thoroughly clean up after an outside party or whenever you grill. Clean all reusable utensils or throw away one-use cutlery before you head inside. Leftover food will encourage yellowjackets to approach the area and may even convince a queen to stick around to build a nest.

While it’s easy to leave behind fallen food or spilled drinks, do your best to collect everything. It can lure in yellowjackets and could draw the attention of other pests and animals. 

Yellowjacket wasps can also crawl into your trashcans to build nests near food sources. Pick an outdoor trashcan with a tight lid, so bugs can't creep inside. Make sure your trash is contained in bags and securely tied to prevent wasps from feeding on loose food.

Plant Crops They Hate

Yellowjacket wasps surprisingly won’t eat everything. Some plants can cause them to turn their noses up. Try adding these plants to your garden, or place them in spots that could be hotspots for hives. 

Spearmint can convince yellowjacket wasps to turn the other way. Because this plant grows swiftly, plant it where you can easily control it. You can also confine it to a pot on your porch or backyard. 

Not only will you have mint for your cooking, but you can effectively send the wasps running. Other plants like thyme and lemongrass will also help prevent yellowjacket wasps from nesting near your home.

The wormwood plant is another effective way to keep wasps away. Plant this far from anything you intend to consume, and avoid ingesting any yourself. If you have animals that tend to eat grass, ensure this plant is not in an area they can easily access. 

If you already have cucumbers in your garden, you can utilize those. The regular plants won’t make a difference to the wasps, but you can chop up some cucumber and lay the pieces out to prevent them from flying near your home. 

Spray Essential Oils Around Your Home

Essential oils can also repel yellowjacket wasps. According to a study in Pest Management Science, certain oils can successfully repel wasps. In a spray bottle, add water and a few drops of essential oils like lavender, lemongrass, clove, or peppermint, and disperse the mixture around areas where wasps can build nests. 

Spraying essential oils can help prevent yellowjackets from building, but it may not effectively kill a current hive. You should always be cautious and never approach an active nest. 

Avoid Certain Fragrances 

It’s no secret that yellowjacket wasps love a sweet scent, but did you know that your shampoo or perfume could attract them? Wasps won't nest in your home because of the products you use, but they may fly close if they smell something appetizing.

Avoid floral and fruity soaps and perfumes during months when the yellowjackets are most prominent. If a yellowjacket approaches you, react with caution and slowly leave the area once it realizes you don’t have any sweet substances on hand. 

Construct a Fake Nest

Yellowjackets will avoid nesting nearby another hive and usually find somewhere else to build a home. If a yellowjacket wasp queen spots a similar-looking hive nearby, she may choose to nest further away or even out of your yard. 

You can buy a premade imitation hive online or at a garden center. These nests are usually made of plastic or a silky material and come with hooks to attach to your home or trees. As they mimic the appearance of a yellowjacket hive, it could convince them to avoid the area around your home. 

If you’re a creative individual, you could consider crafting your own fake hive. You could make one from papier-mâché, glue paper around styrofoam, or construct one out of a paper bag. Here’s some more information about making a fake nest from scratch. 

What Should I Do if I See a Yellowjacket?

If one of these wasps ends up on your property, don’t panic! These insects commonly crop up around the summer months, so there is a chance you could see one. Just be wary and know that more could be nearby. 

Don’t approach a nest if you notice one. While it may be tempting to get close to see what you’re dealing with, it’s better to stay away. 

These insects are notoriously aggressive, and you won’t want to aggravate them by getting close. If you keep your distance, none of the insects should bother you.

Mark the area where you see a nest and avoid walking near it. Knowing the hive’s location will help eradicate it later. 

Avoid hitting any yellowjacket wasps that land on or nearby you. The movement may cause them to sting you or follow you around. You can either slowly push them away or wait until they fly elsewhere. 

Are Yellowjacket Stings Dangerous?

Yellowjackets can pose a danger to you and your family if you accidentally stumble upon their hive. These pests deliver a potent sting that you will want to avoid. 

Unlike honey bees, yellowjacket wasps do not release their stingers after delivering a painful sting. These insects can attack multiple times and will even chase after people if they get too close to the hive. 

If you are stung, you can usually handle the injury at home. Besides the initial pain, you may encounter residual symptoms hours later. It’s normal to experience:

  • Pain 
  • Fever
  • Itchiness 
  • Swelling 
  • Redness

Treating a Yellowjacket Sting

Begin by cleaning the area with soap and water. Don’t try to rub or scratch the sting, as it could irritate your skin. Because yellowjacket wasps usually retain their stingers, you shouldn’t have to worry about anything stuck in your skin. 

To cut down on the pain, you can take an over-the-counter pain reliever. An icepack will also help to reduce any swelling or pain left behind. 

If you have a meat tenderizer powder on hand, you can also apply that to the wound. While unconventional, the powder can reduce some of the pain and swelling caused by the sting. Mix the meat tenderizer with water to create a paste and spread it across your injury.

However, if you’re allergic to yellowjacket stings, seek medical attention. Handle allergic reactions promptly as you could experience trouble breathing and develop hives. If you own an EpiPen, use this to help combat the allergic reaction until you can get to an emergency room.

If you have any adverse reaction to a sting that appears out of the ordinary, consult with a physician. Your symptoms should fully subside within a week. 

Should I Kill Any Yellowjacket Wasps on my Property?

There are pros and cons to having yellowjackets living on your property. If you’re already having issues with invasive pests in your garden or fruit trees, a yellowjacket nest could provide some benefit. 

Always consider your safety over the hives. Weigh the benefits of keeping the yellowjackets versus the potential risks.

The Benefits of Yellowjacket Wasps

The ultimate benefit of yellowjacket wasps is their contributions to your garden. They will consume many pests that are harmful to your plants. While you could use pesticides to eradicate invasive insects, the yellowjackets could quell this problem without using any chemicals. 

Their usefulness can extend outside of your garden as well. Yellowjacket wasps will consume any flies that swarm in and around your home. 

Yellowjacket wasps also aid in pollination. While they aren’t as effective as bees, these wasps do play a role in dispersing pollen around your yard. If their hive isn’t posing a risk to you or your home, you could leave them alone and avoid the area where they nest.

The Risks of a Hive

Having a yellowjacket nest on your property can cause problems, despite their perks. Because of their aggressive nature, you could unwittingly anger the insects if you stray too close to their home. They could injure young children and pets that accidentally run over their nests. 

These wasps also don’t stop once they’re angered. Because they will fiercely protect their nest, you could get hurt if they sting you multiple times. 

They can be a nuisance to any backyard activities as well. The wasps may feed on any food you have out for a barbeque or disturb sweet drinks. You may have an unwelcome guest sitting on your cup as you reach for your glass. 

Unfortunately, while these pets combat invasive species, they have been known to kill bumblebees and honey bees. Yellowjackets will attack beehives and kill off most of the population for nourishment. Bees have an immense impact on ecosystems, and wasps destroying a beehive could have significant consequences for the local environment.

How to Handle Yellowjacket Wasps in your Home

If you’ve tried preventing yellowjacket wasps in your home but still find these pests buzzing around, it may be time to consider other options. They can be a serious nuisance, and it’s not always viable to leave these nests alone. Here are some tips to help you deal with yellowjacket wasps on your property.

Target their Nests

It may be tempting to exterminate these pests as you see them, but removing their nests is the most effective way to combat them. 

If you're interested in trying DIY pest control, be mindful of when you approach the nest. Don't bother the yellowjackets during daytime hours. You will likely encounter a large swarm of pests if you attempt to take action when it's light out.

Instead, try to get rid of the wasps during the nighttime. You’re less likely to see these pests in the evening because most rest inside the hive during the dark. 

Always have somewhere you can run to if the wasps begin to exit their nest. If you can, wear protective gear to shelter yourself against stings. Prioritize your safety and do not attempt to bother a nest unless you can approach it without angering the wasps within. 

Yellowjacket Wasp Sprays

Sprays can effectively destroy smaller colonies and any that you see flying around. When using a spray, angle the container towards the nest and try spraying the entirety of the hive. Some sprays will produce a foam that completely covers the nest, making it difficult for the wasps to escape. 

Keep in mind that this option may not be effective for underground nests. If these hives have varying entrances, the yellowjacket wasps could swiftly exit and fly towards you. It will also be difficult to cover a hive underground.

Dust Pesticides

You can also use a dust pesticide, especially if your problem isn’t aboveground. Sprinkle the dust around the opening of the nest. If your product doesn't include an application device, you can also purchase a small bulb or powder duster to disperse the product.

The dust should stick to the yellowjackets as they enter and exit the hive. They will inadvertently track the poison inside their homes and take out the population. Continue applying the dust until you are sure there are no remaining wasps. 

Yellowjacket Wasp Traps

Traps use bait to entice the yellowjackets to fly in search of food. However, once they fly in, they cannot get back out. You can buy premade traps online or in hardware stores.

You can also create traps out of large soda or water bottles. Inside your bottle, place bait to encourage the wasps to fly in. You can mix sugar and water, add a fruity drink or soda, or seal in a store-bought bait. Most traps work well with a combination of sugary water, vinegar, and a banana peel.

You can add a short funnel through the top of the bottle. As the yellowjackets enter, they will fall into the mixture below. Typically, the bugs will have trouble crawling out of the bottle and eventually drown in the liquid. 

If you don’t have a funnel, you can cut your bottle into two separate pieces. Cut off the top of the bottle and lay it upside down inside the other piece. The wasps will crawl or fly into the open cap and fall to the bottom. 

When you use this method, the yellowjackets can start to pile up. Make sure there are no alive insects in your traps and clean them often. Keep the traps supplied well with bait, so the insects will continually flock to the area. 

This method isn’t capable of taking out an entire nest, but it could provide a good defense against any pests that fly too close to your home.

Introduce Common Predators 

Instead of solely fighting the yellowjackets with pesticides, you could encourage natural predators of these pests to visit your yard. These predators may not adequately cull hives on their own, but they can be an excellent way to disrupt population growth and even prevent the wasps from creating nests.

However, some of these animals and insects could be an annoyance. Only introduce them if they will not impact your garden or cause any further damage.

Dragonflies

You’ve probably spotted one of these insects out and about during the summer months. Did you know that they regularly hunt and eat wasps? 

Dragonflies don’t typically bother humans but may bite if you try to catch them. Attracting dragonflies to your home or garden could prevent larger yellowjacket infestations from growing and even take out a few more annoying insects that stick around. 

Try hanging some plants from your porch or creating an open water source like a birdbath to prompt dragonflies to visit your yard. 

Praying Mantis

The praying mantis is another insect that can help prevent yellowjackets from infesting your home. Like the dragonfly, the praying mantis regularly feeds on other insects and will catch a yellowjacket if it flies too close. 

Plant small shrubs, herbs, and flowers to motivate praying mantises to live in your yard. Praying mantises are drawn to the foliage and all the insects that come with it. 

Don't solely rely on these insects to cure your yellowjacket problem. They can help make your home inhospitable for the wasps with other prevention methods. 

Birds

Birds are another natural predator for yellowjackets. Certain species of birds like bluebirds, swallows, wrens, and cardinals prefer feasting on wasps, bees, and other insects. 

Tanagers primarily eat insects like the yellowjacket, and some birds will target yellowjacket larvae.

If you’d like more birds to visit your yard, try using bird feeders or birdbaths. You can hang feeders from your home or place feeder poles out in your yard. 

Avoid using any sweet or fragrant feeds that could provoke yellowjackets to fly too close. If you already have a nearby hive, don’t place the feeder near your home. 

Here’s a great guide if you’re interested in placing a feeder in your yard. 

Can I Relocate Yellowjacket Wasps?

You may want to keep the wasps close by to ward off pests from your garden but aren’t comfortable with their proximity to your home. However, this is not always possible. 

It’s not advisable to attempt moving a yellowjacket hive. These creatures will get easily angered if you come close to them and would not take too kindly to you grabbing their home. You could get stung by many wasps in the process, and the yellowjackets may not survive if you destroy their hive. 

Underground nests will be even harder to move, and you can’t guarantee the wasps will stay in a new area. If you are interested in relocation, it’s best to ask a pest specialist or even a beekeeper for advice on moving the hive to another location. Never attempt to handle a nest on your own. 

When Should I Turn to Professional Pest Control? 

When your prevention methods fail and you spot a yellowjacket wasp around your home, it could be time to call a professional pest service.

DIY alternatives are not the safest option because of the highly aggressive nature of these pests. If you’re looking for a pest control agency to handle a yellowjacket hive, click here to get a quote for our services! 

Pest control technicians are trained to handle yellowjacket wasps and can safely take care of a hive without endangering you or anyone in your home. They can even locate hard-to-see nests that are difficult to find. When turning to a pest control agency, you can be sure they will find the root of your problem and swiftly take care of it.

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