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If you’ve found yellow jackets swarming around your yard, you may be understandably concerned — especially if you’re allergic. Fortunately, the insects are fairly easy to evict from your property. For a quick solution, use this step-by-step guide on how to get rid of yellow jackets.
How to get rid of yellow jackets step-by-step
Even though yellow jacket infestations are temporary, they can be a real nuisance and potentially dangerous if someone develops an allergic reaction to their sting.
“When removing yellow jackets, it is important to practice safety and caution,” said Tom Monson, owner of Monson Lawn & Landscaping. “Wear protective clothing such as long sleeves, long pants, and a hat to cover the head and face. Additionally, it is important to avoid swatting at the yellow jackets, as this can further agitate them.”
Step 1: Find the nest
Finding the nest is essential to eradicating a yellow jacket infestation. As you follow the yellow jacket around your property, listen for loud buzzing noises that could indicate the location of the nest. Yellow jackets often make their nests underground, so be on the lookout for holes in your yard.
“They typically nest in the ground or in trees, but they can create nests in outside walls or eaves if there is an access point,” said Tim McMahan, a certified pest control technician in the St. Louis area. “There can be anywhere between a few dozen yellow jackets to several thousand in a single nest.”
Step 2: Select your yellow jacket treatment
- Ortho Home Defense Hornet & Wasp Killer. When using this guide on how to get rid of yellow jackets, this aerosol spray will allow you to keep a safe distance of up to 20 feet.
- RESCUE! Reusable Yellow Jacket Trap. This trap lures yellow jackets with a special non-toxic chemical. Once inside, the yellow jackets die from dehydration.
- RESCUE! Disposable Yellow Jacket Trap. This yellow jacket trap is effective for luring all types of yellow jacket species and then drowning them in a nontoxic liquid.
- Bonide 363 Spider and Ground Bee Killer. This product helps kill and prevent further infestations. Apply it to the exterior of your home, dark corners, and holes as needed.
If you don’t want to use chemicals on your property, natural home remedies can be just as effective if you’ve got the supplies in your home.
Place glass bowls on both the entrance and exit holes of the hive. This will trap the yellow jackets inside, leaving them to starve to death. Dry ice can also be an effective and swift killer of yellow jackets when you dump it into the nest and cover both holes with dirt.
If you decide to use either option, make sure to wear protective clothing and gloves.
Step 3: Find the entry and exit points
Since yellow jackets live underground in animal burrows, you’ll need to locate both the entry point and exit point of the nest. Do this by looking for holes in the ground that are closely guarded by a few yellow jackets hovering nearby.
Step 4: Apply the treatment
Once you’ve located the nest, wait until dusk or just before sunrise to apply the treatment. This makes it harder for the yellow jackets to find and sting you. While there are a number of treatments available, an aerosol spray is safest for homeowners.
The product should feature a long-range spray that allows you to stand back from the hole. Make sure to spray both the entrance and exit holes of the nest for at least one minute each, moving in circular motions and covering as much of the interior nest walls as possible. If any yellow jackets escape, spray them directly before they can fly away.
Step 5: Check the nest for activity
After treating the nest, wait 24 hours, and check for additional yellow jacket activity. Apply treatment again if needed.
Step 6: Keep them out of your home for good
The best way to prevent yellow jackets from returning to your home is by filling any visible holes in your yard. If your trash cans are stored outside, make sure they’re covered at all times. Investing in a yellow jacket deterrent is advisable if infestations are a constant problem in your area.
“They eat sweet liquids and foods, so make sure spills are cleaned up, garbage cans are cleaned regularly,” said McMahan. “If you have fruit growing on your property, make sure the fruit is harvested or disposed of before it can become an attractive food source.”
What do yellow jackets look like?
Yellow jackets are often hard to distinguish from bees and similar insects. Yellow jackets have alternating yellow and black stripes that run horizontally along their smooth bodies. Often much more aggressive than bees, yellow jackets are a ground-nesting wasp that can gather in large groups within minutes.
Yellow jacket stings often hurt significantly more than bee stings and leave behind large red welts. Unlike honeybees, they can sting more than once. If you feel a sharp pain and you see a yellow jacket flying around, leave the area immediately. Yellow jackets are known for leaving behind a pheromone at the site of the sting that attracts other yellow jackets to their target.
How do you get yellow jackets?
Yellow jackets are found in countries worldwide and are most prominent during summer and the early days of fall. Like other insects, yellow jackets are attracted to sugary substances. During the larvae stage, yellow jackets feed on a variety of proteins in the form of small insects brought back to the hive by the adults.
Since yellow jackets nest underground, they’re attracted to properties with open rodent holes and burrows. Combine that with exposed trash nearby, and chances are good that you’ll eventually get a yellow jacket infestation. Because yellow jackets are aggressive, easily provoked, and attack in swarms, they can pose a significant threat to anyone on the property.
How to check for yellow jackets
You likely won’t know you have a yellow jacket problem until you see them flying around your property. While they’re similar in color to bees, the shape and visible body texture is an easy way to tell them apart. Yellow jackets are smaller, have a slimmer waist, and smooth texture, and they’ll most likely congregate around open trash cans, outdoor restaurants, and other places where sugary substances are easily accessible.
Before you start to get rid of yellow jackets, you’ll need to determine where their food source is and potential locations for hives. All yellow jackets use the same flight path back and forth, making it easy to track the source. Follow them at a safe distance as they fly around your property until they reach the hive. Once you’ve found the hive, check other areas of your front and back yard, and around the perimeter of your home for additional hiding places.
How long can yellow jacket infestations last?
Yellow jacket infestations last for the duration of the summer season. Once the season is up, the queen will fly to another location to make a new hive. The vast majority of yellow jackets left behind will die at the end of the season, and hives are never reused.
When to call a professional exterminator to treat yellow jackets
Not all yellow jacket hives can be eradicated with DIY products. If the hive is too big or you’re unable to reach it with a spray from a safe distance, calling a professional exterminator might be your best option. It’s also a good idea to call a professional when the nest is located near your house.
“If the nest is in an exterior wall void of your home, it’s best to have a pest control company treat,” said Megan Wede, marketing manager at Done Right Pest Solutions. “These nests need to be taken care of swiftly and thoroughly. Do not, under any circumstances, close the opening to where the stinging insects are getting into the exterior of your home.”
Yellow jacket hives can be difficult to find if they’re located in bushes or up trees. If you’ve already eliminated one hive but still notice yellow jackets flying around your property, call a professional to finish the job.
The bottom line
Yellow jackets are not only a nuisance, but they can be potentially fatal to those who are allergic to their stings. A good way to prevent yearly infestations is to check regularly for animal burrows, fill them when necessary, and cover your trash cans at all times. If you discover a nest, take care of it quickly before the problem gets worse.
Yellow jacket FAQs
How do I prevent stings?
The best way to prevent stings is to avoid yellow jackets as much as possible. If you must interact with them, always wear protective clothing and never use perfume or lotion.
What should I do if I get stung?
Yellow jackets often leave behind a chemical that may attract other hive dwellers. If you get stung, leave the area immediately and do not swat at the insects. If you’ve been stung more than ten times or in the throat or mouth, or you experience difficulty breathing, seek medical attention immediately. To ease the pain, apply a mixture of baking soda and water, a freshly cut onion, or toothpaste to the infected area.
Should I ever leave a yellow jacket nest alone?
Yellow jackets play an important part in the local ecosystem because they prey on smaller insects. Unless the nest presents a threat, leave the yellow jackets alone to complete their life cycle.