Yellowjackets are one of the most common and feared pests during the summer months. This species of wasp can be highly aggressive, and unlike other wasps, can sting continuously without losing its stinger. Yellowjackets also build their nests in multiple places, which may leave you wondering just how you can get rid of them without getting hurt.
To get rid of yellowjackets, you have to attack them when the insects are in their nests. Use insecticides such as pyrethroid foams and dust to treat the nest at night when the yellowjackets are all present and less active.
Is your yard currently swarming with yellowjackets? If so, this article is for you. In this guide, we will explore all the different methods that can be used to get rid of yellowjackets and reduce the likelihood that you or your family will be stung. We will also explore some behavioral traits of this wasp species in addition to offering some safety tips when treating this pest.
About Yellow Jackets
The yellowjacket wasp is a bold and highly social species that is known for its trademark yellow and black markings across the abdomen and thorax.
This wasp species measures upwards of ⅝ of an inch and possesses an intact stinger that does not break off when used. This allows the aggressive yellowjacket to sting several times at once without any repercussions to the wasp.
Yellowjackets thrive during the spring and summer months each year and unlike many wasp species, the yellowjacket does not fear humans or human activity, and in many cases, will swarm near human activities to forage for food.
Where Yellow Jackets Nest
Although it may sound odd, yellowjackets have a symbiotic relationship with humans since we typically provide many of their preferred food sources. This wasp species are attracted to outdoor garbage cans as well as any meat or sugary substances that may get spilled outdoors, which is common during the warmer summer months.
Partly for this reason, yellowjackets will typically choose to build their nests as near to humans as possible to take advantage of these easy food sources.
This wasp species are also highly versatile in terms of nest locations. A yellowjacket nest can be located underground and spotted by the presence of nickel-sized entry and exit holes, inside of logs or rotted trees, in sheds, attics, or basements, and suspended from trees or eaves of structures just like common wasps.
Some yellowjackets have been known to build their nests behind walls inside of homes. A queen yellowjacket will typically start a new nest in late March or early April, and by early autumn, the nest can be the size of a large watermelon with thousands of worker wasps inside. If you live in areas with very mild winters, a nest can remain active the entire year.
Due to the structure of a yellowjacket nest as well as the extreme aggressiveness of this species, treatment procedures against yellowjackets should always be aimed at attacking a nest instead of trying to eliminate foraging yellowjackets.
Yellowjackets are highly territorial which gives the species an aggressive streak that is seen either in the nest or foraging individually or in swarms.
One aspect of yellowjacket behavior that is alarming is the boldness of the species in terms of socialization. The yellowjacket has no fear of large animals or humans, and many researchers think this has to do with their aggressive instincts and the violent attack patterns the wasps will take when threatened.
The most common instance where humans are stung by this wasp species comes down to territory. If you are near a yellowjacket nest or if you interfere with food gathering, you can expect a yellowjacket to try and sting you. If a yellow jacket lands on your skin or nearby, do not make sudden movements and remain calm as if the insect is not even bothering you.
When it comes to a yellowjacket nest, this is where people need to exercise the most caution. Most often, you can walk near a nest with no problems, but if you disturb the nest, an entire colony of yellow jackets will swarm and chase you, and since this species can fly upwards of 8 miles an hour, outrunning a swarm can be difficult.
Yellowjackets have been known to chase and continuously sting people or animals for several yards from a nest.
The early parts of the autumn season are warm before cool air starts to take over. In this period, usually from late September to mid-October, yellowjackets are considered to be at their most aggressive in terms of behavior.
Flowers and plants begin to die which sends the wasps on foraging hunts to scavenge through trash bins and outdoor areas to find food sources to bring to the queen so she can remain healthy and fertilize eggs for the dormant winter season.
This is also when people are most at risk for being stung or attacked by aggressive swarms of the wasps. The nest is dying out, and workers are in panic mode to collect enough food for the queen’s fertilization process.
It is best to avoid yellowjackets at all costs, but this is not easy when you apply treatments to eliminate the pests. In the next section, we will go through some important steps when preparing to treat yellowjackets.
4 Steps To Eliminate Yellow Jacket Nests
Before we get into the best treatments for yellowjackets, let’s go through some important steps to take to ensure you are not stung and a nest is thoroughly destroyed.
Step 1: Find the Nest
In order to successfully treat yellowjackets, you have to find the nest that houses the entire colony. These nests can be found in multiple places, and extreme caution needs to be taken when you are looking for a nest.
More often than not, yellowjackets will choose to build their nest underground. Underground nests can be found practically anywhere, but areas of dirt or soil are the most common since the wasps do not have to work as hard to burrow through the grass.
You can inspect the ground in your yard for nickel-sized entry and exit holes, and if you ever see yellowjackets flying around these areas or going in and out of a hole, you have likely found an underground nest.
Yellowjackets will also build visible nests in trees, logs, or suspended from branches or underneath the eaves of porches or garages. If you see yellowjackets in the attic or a basement, the nest is somewhere nearby and possibly even behind the walls.
Follow the activity of foraging yellowjackets cautiously and monitor where they enter and exit.
Step 2: Apply Treatments at Night
Once you find a yellowjacket nest, you will want to wait until nighttime before you attempt to apply treatments. Dawn, dusk, and especially during the day are not advised since the wasps are active during these times. If you treat a nest during the day, there is a strong possibility the wasps will swarm and chase you.
If you need to, use a flashlight for a light source to ensure you aim correctly at the nest or entry and exit holes; however, try not to shine the light directly at the nest to avoid disturbing them. Be prepared to move quickly when applying your chosen product (more on these below!) and especially when you move away from the nest. Yellowjackets are dormant at night so you will have some time to apply the treatments before they are able to swarm.
Step 3: Apply Two Treatments to Ensure Nest Destruction
Yellowjackets are also incredibly resilient, and since foam and dust insecticides are the two best treatment applications for this pest, you may need to perform two separate treatments on two different nights to ensure the chemicals reach every quarter of the nest.
It is best to treat with a foam insecticide the first time to either fully close off the entry or exit holes underground and seep the chemical into the nest chambers. For above-ground nests, a foam insecticide can also encase a yellowjacket nest which can also help prevent swarms and attacks.
On the second application, you can use insecticide dust with a dust applicator to finish the job of coating the nest in poison.
Step 4: Wear Protective Clothing
Treating yellowjackets is a bold move to take since there is a high possibility you may get stung. You can counter this by wearing certain protective clothes and gear when you start spraying chemicals into or onto a nest.
Consider wearing a thick, baggy sweater or jacket with a high collar that can catch a sting before it pierces your skin. Wear a hat and a large mask as well. Always wear long baggy pants but make sure you can run away easily after quickly applying insecticides.
Treatments for Killing Yellow Jackets
When treating yellowjackets, there are five main applications you can consider: sprays, baits, foams, dust, and some natural methods.
Here are the best products and recommended procedures for each category.
Foam insecticides also earn high marks for overall safety when effectively treating yellowjackets. There are many products that will use an aerosol foam concentration with a long spray reach of upwards of 15 to 20 feet in distance to keep you safe from swarms.
Stryker Wasp and Hornet Killer kill yellow jackets on contact from up to 20 feet away. It knocks down yellowjackets so quickly that they do not have time to release their stinging pheromones, which in turn reduces the possibility of the applicator being stung. The main chemical in this product is prallethrin, which is one of the preferred chemicals for killing yellowjackets on contact.
To use this foam, align the nozzle valve opening directly opposite the mark on the valve cup. Press down on the actuator and apply, using a sweeping motion, contacting any stimulated or stirred-up yellowjackets around the nest opening. Then move forward to the nest opening and apply for 6 – 8 sec directly into the nest hole.
The chemical is so strong that the wasps will typically die within seconds of exposure and the residual effect will continue destroying the entire nest up to days after application.
- Kills yellowjackets on contact
- Allows up to 20 feet of application distance between you and the nest
- Strong residual effect
- Foam pesticides can lose applicator efficiency after a few uses
For yellowjacket nests underground, using a dust insecticide is sometimes a good idea to prevent swarms of yellowjackets once a nest is disturbed. You can usually apply dust insecticides with a dust applicator that will give you some distance from the nest and lessen the vibrations that disturb yellowjackets.
Tempo 1% Dust is ready-to-use pyrethroid dust that can be used for both indoor and outdoor applications of yellow jacket nests. It can be applied using a hand duster or power duster directly into yellow jacket entry and exit holes or onto a suspended nest at night. This product has excellent penetration into wall voids, ensuring equal coverage, and is odorless and non-staining.
To use against yellowjackets, approach the nest or entry and exit holes quietly at night and stand at least 5 feet away as you lightly mist the dust across the nest or into the entry and exit holes. The dust has a residual effect that will ensure yellowjackets are coated in the dust as they enter and exit the nest.
- Safe and effective
- Strong residual effect
- If used with a dust applicator, the dust is not likely to disturb a nest
- Takes time to destroy an entire nest
Using a powerful liquid insecticide for a yellowjacket nest can be very effective but also a bit risky. Spray insecticides can saturate a nest with powerful residual chemicals to ensure the long-term elimination of the nest. If you use a spray chemical, be prepared to act and move quickly to avoid being stung.
This product is a great all-around spray insecticide due to its strong residual effect and powerful but mild ingredients. The active ingredient in Tempo SC Ultra is beta-cyfluthrin, which is powerful against pests with no odor and less visible residue.
This product delivers the power of a powder formulation in a liquid and allows for more even disbursement during application. Be sure to mix the concentrate into a one-gallon sprayer to ensure rapid saturation of a yellowjacket nest.
- Strong residual to ensure prolonged chemical exposure to surviving yellowjackets
- Treats up to 30,000 square feet
- Effective for killing yellowjackets but not the most ideal application procedure
Baits take away the danger of having to possibly come into contact with aggressive yellowjackets. These products are also great because they can be reused each year.
Alpine Yellow Jacket Bait Stations are an intuitive, easy and effective way to control Yellowjackets around your home. Just one kit will provide you with enough product to treat Yellowjackets year after year without ever having to buy another station, trap, or insecticide.
Each kit contains four reusable bait stations with hanging strings and one pint of Onslaught insecticide concentrate, which is the only insecticide labeled for Yellow Jacket baiting.
You use the stations by placing a mixture of tuna or another food attractant with a small amount of onslaught insecticide in each bait station. The stations are then hung around the outside of the home where they will attract the stinging insects who will contact, ingest and spread the insecticide, eliminating the yellowjacket problem sometimes within just a few days.
- Eliminates contact with yellowjackets
- Works to destroy an entire colony
- Works quickly
- Reusable each year
- Additional baits are sold separately
Natural Methods to Get Rid of Yellow Jackets
If you want to try some natural remedies to eliminate yellow jackets, there are a few methods you can consider, but at very high risk. ALWAYS ensure full protective suits and safety gear are being used before performing one of these methods.
An effective method for underground nests is to use a mixture of boiling hot water and dish detergent. Fill a bucket with scalding hot water and soap and pour the entire bucket over the entry and exit holes. This will likely kill the entire colony instantly but is not recommended for above-ground yellowjacket nests.
For suspended nests, always attempt to approach nests at night and you can consider using a thick pillowcase or cloth bag with a drawstring to quickly wrap around the nest, break it off, tie the top, and submerge the nest in a bucket of water. The entire colony will suffocate or drown with this method and the bag will prevent the wasps from escaping and stinging you.
Are yellowjackets deadly?
Since yellowjackets typically attack in swarms and can sting repeatedly, this can be a dangerous situation for people and pets. This wasp species releases a type of venom that can cause extreme toxicity with each sting and cause lethal consequences in those who are allergic to yellow jacket stings.
What smell do yellowjackets hate?
Like most insects, yellowjackets are repelled by the smell of many essential oils like peppermint and cinnamon. Yellowjackets also hate the smell of vinegar which is great to use if you wish to repel the insects.
Does killing a yellowjacket attract more yellowjackets?
If you kill a stray yellowjacket, it will release certain types of pheromones that immediately alert nearby yellowjackets from the colony. It is best not to try and kill stray yellowjackets since the root of the problem is the colony and nest, and killing stray wasps will only draw in more from the colony.