Yellow Jackets

Vespula sp.

  • SIZE

    1/2in to 3/4in long

  • COLOR

  • BITE OR STING

    Yes

  • WINGS

    Yes

Top-view illustration of a yellow jacket.
Side-view illustration of a yellow jacket.
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Close up image of a yellow jacket.

General Information

Yellow jackets will aggressively defend their nests, which are often hidden underground and can’t be seen. Unlike bees, yellow jackets can sting repeatedly, making them especially dangerous for people who are allergic. If they’re buzzing around your yard and making you anxious, the good news is that you can take proactive steps to help reduce your risk and find ways to help get rid of yellow jackets.

  • Yellow jackets are aggressive scavengers and are often encountered during cookouts or other outdoor activities.

  • High numbers of yellow jackets can also be found near trash receptacles and dumpsters.

Details

  • Queen yellow jackets build nests underground, in aerial paper nests, or in hollow openings in buildings, such as the insides of soffits or under siding.

  • Yellow jackets are most often seen twice a year: in the spring, when the over-wintering queen emerges to start a new colony, and then again in late summer/early fall when colonies are reaching maturity and large numbers of workers are actively foraging.

  • Yellow jackets are commonly considered one of the most dangerous stinging insects. Although they don’t go out of their way to bother humans, they are often unpredictable and will sting in order to defend their nest.

  • Many people are stung when they step on hidden yellow jacket nests in the ground as they mow their lawn or perform other outdoor activities.

  • These flying pests can sting many times and do not usually die after stinging.

  • When a yellow jacket stings, it releases an “alarm pheromone” that excites nearby yellow jackets to also sting the victim.

  • Some people can have severe allergic reactions to yellow jacket stings. These people should get immediate medical attention.

Yellow jackets can be a nuisance buzzing around your yard and home. Follow these tips to help get rid of yellow jackets:

  • In the spring, place a trap along the perimeter of your yard to catch the queen and keep the new colony from forming.

  • Restrict access into the home by closing doors and windows.

  • Close all garbage containers and rinse out recyclable items before placing them in the bin.

  • When eating outside, bring out the food just before you are ready to eat, cover up serving dishes during the meal, and put food back inside after eating.

  • Always look for these stinging insects before drinking from open beverage containers outdoors.

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