Enjoying your garden should be a relaxing way to spend an afternoon. But have you found yourself batting away bugs and insects? Or seeing your garden overrun with these pesky pests? Finding a yellow jacket nest in your garden can be very distressing especially if you have pets or small children. You may find it impossible to sit outside in warm weather as your garden becomes the home for these buzzing insects. Although they may sometimes be mistaken for bees, this particular insect has a very different temperament and behaviour pattern. This is what leads people to want to rid their gardens and homes of these insects.
Eating outside can become a problem as these insects are often drawn to sweet foods and drinks. If you don’t get rid of them fast you could see your picnic moving inside rather hastily!
So we’ve put together a list of the best tips to tell you how to deal with yellow jackets. From treating stings and removing nests to planting shrubs that repel the bugs there are plenty of ways you can help rid your backyard of these pests.
Read on and discover how you can claim your garden back and spend your summer enjoying the great outdoors.
WHAT IS A YELLOW JACKET?
A yellow jacket is the name for a common North American insect known around the world as a “wasp”. They get their nickname from their the striking color with and black contrasting stripes on their bodies. They’re often mistaken for their gentler, and more endangered cousin, the bee. They’re similar sized and they both have the same yellow and black stripes on their body which can be confusing. Other wasps, like the hornet, are also sometimes mistaken for the yellow jacket.
These bugs are slightly smaller than your regular wasp or bee, and they are only about 12mm long but the queen yellow jacket can grow to up to 19mm long. Unlike bees, they don’t have the brown hair all along their bodies and they don’t carry pollen from flower to flower. Also unlike a bee, the they stings repeatedly without consequence (whereas a honey bee will die if it stings a person as the stinger is attached to the bees heart). They tend to nest in protected areas of your garden, away from wind, rain and direct sunlight.
You might find them inside sheds or outbuildings, in your crawl space and even hidden inside rabbit warrens. If you’ve ever found a nest in your garden or outbuilding you’ll know not to disturb it as you can easily provoke these creatures into an angry swarm. They operate much like bees and can be attracted to rotting food, garbage and other human refuse.
THE YELLOW JACKET LIFE CYCLE
The insects are much like any other bug. They start off as an egg, then become a larva and change into pupa and eventually an adult wasp. The queen will find a nest site and then make a small nest out of paper where the eggs are laid. Queens can lay up to 50 eggs at once so it is easy to see how quickly these insects can multiply!
After the eggs hatch into larvae, the queen feeds these tiny yellow jackets for up to 20 days until they pupate – meaning they turn into tiny versions of the fully grown wasp. These little creatures become workers and then take over from the queen and continue to feed the rest of the larva left in the nest. It isn’t until the summer that they will mature into adults and then start the task of building the nest until it is larger and stronger as well as caring for the queen and any larva.
Just like honey bees, the yellow jacket queen stays inside the nest and continues to lay eggs until there are thousands of larva, pupa and fully grown yellow jackets. A nest can rapidly expand and by the height of summer you could find what started as one queen in the depths of winter has now become a fully filled nest. When winter gets close, males mate and then die while a new generation of queens is made.
These queens then leave to seek their own nest sites and build their own colonies. This is why when treating the bug it is important to make sure you have completely rid the area as just one yellow jacket can create a whole new colony.
DIET OF A YELLOW JACKET
The pests seek out food high in sugar and carbohydrate to give them the energy they need. You’ll often see yellow jackets around fruit, flowers and even on tree bark where they collect sap. The larva need protein to help them grow so the larger, worker insects will find meat or fish to feed them and help them develop. The larva pay the adult workers back by secreting a sugar which is eaten by the adults.
TYPES OF YELLOW JACKETS
As mentioned above, there are different types of flying insect that are also classed as “yellow jackets”. They’re confused with paper wasps as they’re similar in size as well as bees, hornets and bumblebees. The way to identify them accurately is their size first off. They’re best known as wasps and are often referred to as this around the world. Whatever you call them, the importance of identifying them is so you are able to deal with them efficiently and properly.
HOW TO GET RID OF YELLOW JACKETS WITHOUT KILLING THEM
If you want to rid your garden of yellow jackets, but killing them makes you feel uneasy, there are plenty of solutions you can use to get rid of the pests without killing them. Besides, there are no real benefits of yellow jackets, so don’t feel too bad. If you wanted an exterminator for yellow jackets, that would be an acceptable solution. But read on if you truly want to avoid it.
One of the first things to do is make sure you don’t have any food sources around outside that yellow jackets could live off. Un-emptied garbage cans, leftover food and even animal food outside can all attract yellow jackets and their larva. Keep your garbage in sealed cans and put your pet food inside rather than in the backyard and this will help to keep them away.
Keep sugary snacks and drinks inside. Remember, the yellow and black bug feeds on sugary snacks so if you’re having a dinner round the table outside and want to bring out dessert, perhaps skip it and take the party inside. If you have a hummingbird feeder then this sugar water can also attract yellow jackets.
Sliced cucumber is an old home remedy but can actually get rid of yellow jackets due to it’s natural repellant properties. The vegetable has an acid which yellow jackets hate so slice some up and scatter them around the garden before a gathering outdoors and it can help to keep them away.
Don’t wear bright colours. They are like bees in that they are attracted to bright colours. So put away that loud red shirt and wear something more muted to your next garden party! Killing a yellow jacket just makes the situation worse. If you kill one yellow jacket, it will release a pheromone which draws in all the other members of the colony. So although you might think you’ve gotten rid of the problem by killing one of the pests, you have actually made it much worse.
Ditch the perfume. They are seeking sugar and flowers to feed on so it stands to reason that if you’re wearing a sweet, flowery perfume they’ll flock around you. Stick to no perfume if you’re heading into the garden for the day.
THE STING REACTION
You’ll know if you get stung by a yellow jacket usually straight away. The symptoms of the particular sting are pretty unpleasant but are treatable. You will feel pain first of all, followed by a reddening of the area and then it may begin to swell.
For a very small number of people, a sting from a yellow jacket can be life threatening. This is called anaphylaxis and causes very dangerous symptoms. Sufferers will get itchiness and a rash followed by a swelling of the tongue and throat which causes breathing problems, dizziness, stomach cramps, nausea and diarrhea.
In severe cases, it can end in a loss of consciousness, coma and then could possibly be fatal. If you experience any of these symptoms after a suspected yellow jacket sting, then you need to get immediate medical treatment.
TREATMENT FOR A YELLOW JACKET STING AND FIRST AID
Treating a yellow jacket sting is fairly simple but speed is the key to ensuring it will be remedied quickly. First thing to do is to remove the sting if there is any part of it left in the skin. If the skin goes red around the sting, then it should only be a local reaction and will go down when you apply cold water or ice. If there is a noticeable swelling, take an antihistamine to reduce the inflammation or if it is very severe, take a dose of ibuprofen. If a rash appears or seems to spread from the site of the sting, then immediate medical help should be sought.
If you know you have an allergy, then you should always carry medication such as an Epipen with you to give yourself immediate treatment if you receive a sting.
PLANTS THAT KEEP YELLOW JACKETS AWAY
There are several natural ways to repel yellow jackets and planting some different plants and shrubs can help to get rid of the pests
Mint is a great way to rid your garden of yellow jackets, the strong smell puts off wasps from entering your garden. Wormwood is also a great plant for deterring these stinging creatures as the bugs also find it off putting. Lemongrass, similar to mint, deters the yellow jackets through a strong smell.
HOW TO CARRY OUT YELLOW JACKET NEST REMOVAL
Removing a yellow jacket nest should be done slowly and carefully, you should really know the nesting habits of them beforehand. All wasps defend their nests but yellow jackets and hornets are particularly aggressive when it comes to protecting their queen. If you disturb the nest, they will swarm out of the colony and attack what they believe the disturbance is. You can use a yellow jacket trap, baited with sugar or meat, to trap active adult yellow jackets and lessen their numbers in the nest.
Treat nests in the dark as yellow jackets cannot see well in darkness and use a pesticide spray to soak the nest and remaining yellow jackets. You should continue to monitor the nest for a week or so in case there are larva or pupa that have escaped the treatment and are still alive. This works for ground nests as well as nesting that’s happening under sidings or in attics.
So if you’re struggling to get rid of yellow jackets in your garden and are facing an infestation and all the stings and nasty side effects that brings, hopefully this list has helped you.
Finding a way to stop yellow jackets taking over your garden is easier than you think and you don’t always have to resort to killing them. Try the tips for keeping them away first, but if you have already got a nest then there are plenty of safe ways to get rid of them. And there are first aid tips to treat a sting reaction if you do get stung while outside.
I hope this list will help you see that while yellow jackets are a nuisance they aren’t something you have to live with and you don’t have to resort to killing them or spraying toxic chemicals around to solve it. Follow these simple steps and you’ll be out in the garden enjoying yourself again in no time.
If you’ve found this article helpful, please share it and if you have any more tips of how to deal with yellow jackets share them below.