August 11, 2022

What do Yellow Jackets Eat? Common Backyard Attractants

Yellow jackets are a common backyard nuisance. From early spring to late fall, these pests populate lawns across Washington, building large underground nests.

These pests can cause trouble during backyard picnics and even make gardening a nightmare as they forage around flowers and fruit. While they appear to prefer anything in your yard, what do yellow jackets eat regularly?

In our article, we’ll explain a yellow jacket’s diet and what attracts them to your property!

What do Yellow Jackets Eat in my Garden?

Like bees, yellow jackets are a common garden pest whenever crops begin to bloom during the summer or early fall. 

Yellow jackets may consume the following:

  • Fruit
  • Pollen
  • Nectar
  • Berries

black and yellow wasp feasting on a flower's pollen

Pollen and nectar are important components of a yellow jacket’s diet. You’ll typically see yellow jackets flitting around flowers like bees, consuming nectar and redistributing pollen as they fly to different areas. 

Sweet substances are remarkable energy sources for many small insects, so yellow jackets and other common backyard pests like ants flock to fruits and berries for a hearty and energizing meal. 

Most yellow jackets will feast on fallen and decaying fruit that litter the ground around your bushes and trees, but don’t be surprised if you find one burrowing through your ripe peaches or strawberries. 

Occasionally, yellow jackets may dine on garden pests like aphids or caterpillars, but they primarily consume insects to redistribute back to developing larvae, according to Clemson University's Agricultural Extension

Do Yellow Jackets Ever Consume Insects?

What do yellowjackets eat besides nectar? Despite contrary beliefs, yellow jackets primarily reserve insects or other meat for the hive’s larvae. 

Yellow jacket larvae feed on insects before maturing into their pupal form. Adult wasps collect different types of insects to provide to the growing young. Some yellow jackets preemptively chew the insects before feeding them to the larvae. 

However, larvae have a role in the colony, too! After digesting their insect meal, yellow jacket larvae produce a sweet secretion or waste that adult yellow jackets regularly consume. 

These pests aren’t picky when finding a meal for the hive’s larvae. Yellow jackets may lend a hand in your garden by removing destructive or annoying bugs that ruin crops or flowers, but these pests can harm other needed insect populations.

Known for their aggressive nature, yellow jackets are particularly detrimental to other stinging insects like bees. Nearby bee hives may fall victim to a yellow jacket attack because the wasps will gut an active bee colony to provide for their larvae. 

Look at this video of a group of yellow jackets attacking a bee hive!

While they prefer to feast on fruit or nectar, yellow jackets may occasionally turn toward insects as their next meal, especially as flowers and berries become scarce in late fall or the beginning of winter. 

Reduced food sources may also cause them to look for other measures to get their nutritional fill!

What do Yellow Jackets Eat at Barbeques and Picnics?

As yellow jackets lose their typical nourishment, you may notice an uptick of these pests around your outdoor activities. While wasps are a normal aspect of any sunny day outdoors, they may draw too close for comfort if they can’t find a meal elsewhere!

Backyard parties have many delectable treats like sugary drinks, fruit, hotdogs, hamburgers, or steak. As you sit down to dig into a full plate, you may find a yellow jacket trying to sneak a bite too!

Yellow jackets won’t commonly reach for the meat on your table, but they could attempt to carry some back to their colony or even take some for themselves if other food sources aren't available. 

Take a look at these yellow jackets cutting up and eating meat! While the video doesn't track their subsequent movements, these pests are probably carrying their spoils back to the colony. 

What do yellow jackets eat besides barbequed treats? Barring your cooked ribs, yellow jackets consume any sweet substances on your picnic table. 

No cut fruit is safe when you have an active yellow jacket hive nearby! If left uncovered, your watermelon, cantaloupe, peaches, oranges, or mixed berries could attract yellow jackets to visit. No one wants a slice of fruit after insects land on it!

Many sweet drinks are common yellow jacket attractants, too. Open soda or alcohol cans can entice a yellow jacket to slip inside for a sip. If you’re not careful, you may come eye to eye with one of these pests the next time you raise your glass!

Sweet teas and juices are drinks that yellow jackets enjoy. Don’t be surprised if you see them circling glasses or pitchers trying to sneak a drink. During summer and fall, yellow jackets eat anything they can get their hands on.

How to Prevent Yellow Jackets in Your Yard

Avoid leaving uncovered food on your lawn to keep these pests at bay. If you’re enjoying an afternoon picnic, keep an eye out for buzzing insects and keep your food and drink covered and out of reach.

If you have fruit trees or bushes, regularly clean up fallen or rotting fruit to keep wasps from flocking around your foliage. While this won’t prevent the yellow jackets from feasting on ripened fruit, you can reduce the number of insects that may crowd around your plants.

Remove brush piles from your yard or other yellow jacket attractants like standing water or piles of leaves. As queen yellow jackets search for an attractive place to nest, they will look for areas with food and shelter to hibernate in for the ensuing winter. 

Preventative measures can save you from regular yellow jacket visits, but pest control solutions are the only way to protect yourself against an active hive. Yellow jackets are highly aggressive and could quickly attack anyone close to their underground colonies. 

Many homeowners enjoy utilizing their yards for recreational purposes or family time. Yellow jackets shouldn’t ruin your fun outside! Whenever these pests take up space on your lawn, give us a call!

Zunex can remove any dangerous yellow jackets from your yard and help you enjoy your time outdoors again. Contact us today to learn more!

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