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Yellow Jackets: Good and Bad
If you’ve ever been stung by a yellow jacket, you know how much it can hurt. That’s because yellow jackets, unlike honeybees, can actually sting you multiple times. What’s more, yellow jackets can be aggressive, whereas honeybees will not sting unless they absolutely have to.
But while yellow jackets are potentially painful pest, they do offer some benefits, so eradicating them completely is not always the best option. Here’s some handy information to help you learn to live with yellow jackets.
Yellow Jackets are Wasps
Often mistaken for honeybees, yellow jackets are actually wasps, and there are several species of yellow jackets in the United States. They have black and yellow bands around their bodies, and are less than an inch in length. Their abdomens are thinner than honeybees, and they are shiny, whereas bees are more fuzzy.
They are social, meaning they live in colonies. They are also scavengers, eating meat, fruits, and sugary substances, which is why they can be such a nuisance at outdoor eating spots and around trash cans.
On the flip side, though, yellow jackets are pollinators, which is good. They are also carnivores who eat other damaging insects like caterpillars, which can be a real benefit to gardeners. In the spring and early summer they eat insects until the food supply is dwindling, at which time they turn to scavenging.
Yellow Jackets Nest Underground
If you have a hole in your yard and see numerous yellow jackets going in and out, you probably have a nest, as most yellow jackets nest underground. They are most active in the late summer and early autumn, and during this time a nest could easily contain several thousand insects.
It is their nest they are most protective of and will aggressively defend it against intruders or threats. And, again, yellow jacket stings are nothing to be taken lightly. They can be extremely painful and even deadly for those who are allergic to them.
Controlling Yellow Jackets
Because they do help control the population of damaging insects like caterpillars, if you can possibly co-exist with yellow jackets, do so. However, if a nest is located in a high-traffic area on your property — where yellow jackets and humans can come in frequent contact — you might want to consider getting rid of them. Additionally, if a member of your family has a known allergy to bee stings, exterminating the nest is probably a good idea.
As mentioned previously, one active yellow jacket nest can have thousands of insects, and they are fiercely protective of their territory. That being said, you should consult a professional exterminator for removal. Once the size of the nest is determined, a professional can use a wide variety of pest control methods to destroy the nest.
Even if you don’t have a nest, yellow jackets can still be a problem. You can discourage them by keeping trash can lids on tight and picking up fallen fruit from any trees on your property. There are also various sprays and traps available. If you use these, make sure you follow the directions on the product.