The yellow jacket is a type of wasp that many people mistake for the honey bee. Yellow jackets are small ranging from half an inch to three-fourths of an inch long. The body of the yellow jacket has a defined waist and long legs, and the body is covered in bands of yellow and black. The similar coloring and small shape of the yellow jacket and honey bees is what most often confuses people.
Fruits that have fallen to the ground are a great food source for yellow jackets. Make sure to pick up fruit once it falls from your trees.
Unlike bees these wasps eat more than pollen. Yellow jackets do enjoy sweet things, but more so when they are in the adult stage of their lives. As larvae, yellow jackets are known for eating meat. In most cases they eat the meat of other insects like flies, crickets, caterpillars, and other plant eating insects. The adult yellow jacket will actually catch the insects for the larvae and chew and condition the meat before the larvae eat it. This is actually a good thing about yellow jackets. Due to the fact that larvae eat meat, and adults will hunt plant-eating insects; the yellow jackets are actually helping control another pest control problem.
Even though yellow jackets are helping kill bad bugs they still can be bad pests themselves. Adult yellow jackets don’t eat meat like the larvae, they actually like sweet things like nectar, fruit, and other sweet human food. The yellow jackets also eat a secretion that the larvae produce. It may sound funny and weird, but as the larvae feeds on meat they produce a sweet sugar substance that secretes through their skin; this is a special treat that adult yellow jackets relish. Another type of sweet substance the adult yellow jackets enjoy eating is human food, which they normally find during picnics, barbecues, or any outside dinning. Favorite choices of the yellow jackets are soda, ciders, fruit juices, ice cream, candy, burgers, hot dogs, and even fish. When ever dining outside it is best to keep everything covered as much as possible, even the not-so-sweet items. Yellow jackets will go for anything including the meat because they can feed it to the larvae.
Here is a yellow jacket nest that has been made on a tree. Having a yellow jacket nest out in your yard on a tree is better than close to your home.
This yellow jacket nest was built on the side on a home. This is what homeowners do not want to happen, the further away the nest the better.
The worst part of trying to enjoy food outdoors is that yellow jacket wasps make their nests in so many different places you never know how close they’ll be to your food. Nests can be found anywhere from hollow trees, trees, shrubs, animal or rodent burrows, rock walls, under landscape timbers or heavy mulch, protected areas, under porches, eaves of homes, flooring, hollow walls, and attics. Yellow jacket wasps use pieces of wood and saliva to make their nests. Yellow jackets take the paper looking material they’ve made and use it to build the nest that forms multiple tiers of vertical cells, and there is a small hole in the bottom of the nest so yellow jacket wasps can fly in and out of the nest. The nest of the yellow jackets is a huge part of their lives. The life cycle of the yellow jackets is simple and repeats every year and one component of their lives is the nest. Read more on the details on the yellow jacket life cycle, to see just how important the nest is to the yellow jackets. If you do find a yellow jacket nest anywhere on your property or in your house call your local pest control to come out to your house.
Although there are do-it-yourself remedies, the safest choice is to call an exterminator. If you try to do any at home pest control there is always the risk of provoking the yellow jackets to attack. Sometimes people will try to capture the nests at night while the yellow jackets are sleeping. This is still risky because you could wake up the yellow jackets. They are like people and are out working in the day and stay in at night. Another at home thing people do to try to get rid of the yellow jacket wasps is called a water trap. This is safer for people to do as there is no physical contact with the yellow jackets until they are trapped and most likely dead. The water trap consists of hanging a piece of fish or liver above a container of water, and the water has to have some type of soap mixed in like laundry detergent. The food they try taking will be too heavy for them to carry and they will fall into the surrounding water below and drown. To ensure the yellow jackets are dead some people will then freeze the water.
Knowing what yellow jacket wasps look like is helpful in order to avoid them. Here is a yellow jacket up close.
If you are outdoors and come across yellow jackets or their nest just avoid them all together. Doing this is really the best way to prevent any problems from happening with yellow jacket wasps. Like some other pests, yellow jackets will leave people alone as long as people do not bother or provoke them. Fast movements and loud noises can bother yellow jackets and provoke them to attack. This can be very bad as yellow jackets travel/hunt in colonies so there is high chance that there is going to be more than one yellow jacket after you. Even doing yard work with electrical devices can provoke yellow jackets, so if you know there is a nest outside wear protective gear or call your local pest control. Of course there are times where people do not mean to provoke yellow jackets, but do on accident. This usually happens when people see a yellow jacket wasp near them and try to swat at it, the fast movement of an arm will scare the yellow jacket and provoke it into attack mode. Even though people are scared the safest thing to do to avoid being stung is to slowly put your hands over your face and wait. Once the yellow jacket is gone you’re safe, and you most likely have escaped with out a sting. In the case that you do get stung see our first aid tips for yellow jacket stings.
Picture courtesy of www.creativecommons.org