Yellow Jackets: DIY Advice and When to Call the Pros

Yellow Jackets

Yellow jackets are small, unassuming little winged flying creatures — until you get stung. The sting of a yellow jacket starts off mild, but quickly grows in intensity and swelling. Yellow jackets are the bane of homeowners and gardeners everywhere. If you are trying to figure out a way to deal with yellow jackets, we have some tricks to try yourself and when you need to call the pros.  

What Are Yellow Jackets?

Many people think yellow jackets are bees, but they are actually wasps. This is important to know, because while most bees can sting you only once, wasps can sting repeatedly. Yellow jackets are found all over North America, so New Jersey is far from immune. 

Like bees, yellow jackets are beneficial to nature. While bees are important because they are able to help with pollination, yellow jackets are important because they kill agricultural pests, so they are good to have around. However, yellow jackets are also a nuisance and for some people, dangerous. 

Yellow jackets cause issues for homeowners in the summer and fall, before they die out during the late fall. First, they make their nests on the ground, in rocks, crevices or holes, so they are difficult to spot. Many species of yellow jackets are aggressive, which means they will come after you without provocation. There are some activities, which seem to agitate them, such as mowing the lawn. If you or other family members are allergic to yellow jackets, they can be deadly. When the colony of yellow jackets gets large, it can contain as many as 6000 to 10,000 yellow jackets. While you don’t want to kill the yellow jackets off entirely, there are ways you can control them. 

How to Control Yellow Jackets

There are some things you can do yourself to keep yellow jackets under control. First, you will need to eliminate their sources of food. During the summer, yellow jackets kill pests to take to the nest to feed the larvae. No yellow jacket can resist sweet treats, however, because they feed on sugars. You can do your part to cut down their food sources by making sure you don’t leave sweet treats out in the open. Be sure that any fruit you have outside is cleaned up, and not left to rot. If you have fruit trees or bushes, pick up any fruit that has fallen. 

You will also want to make sure you keep any trash picked up and bagged. During the summer, especially if you have children, popsicle sticks, soda cans, ice cream cones and other treats may be left out on your porch, patio or in your yard. This can be a signal for yellow jackets to come in and feed. You’ll want to keep your yard free of sweet distractions for those yellow jackets that are constantly hunting. 

In addition to food waste and fruit, yellow jackets are attracted to nectar from flowers. You don’t have to give up all of those flowers you adore, but there are some things you can do to cut down on the yellow jackets buzzing around. First, if you have hummingbird feeders out, be sure they have bee caps on them, which prevents the yellow jackets from getting to the sugar water. If you have flowers, or flowering shrubs near your doors, you may need to think about moving them. This is especially true when yellow jackets are most active, in the summer months. Make sure the plants by your door bloom in early spring, or they don’t bloom at all. 

Other Yellow Jacket Methods of Control

There are several DIY methods you can use to try and control yellow jackets. First, if you can locate the nest, you can boil a pot of hot water and pour it down the hole. It is best to do this at sunset or close to sunset, when the yellow jackets return to the hive. By pouring boiling water down into the nest, you will be killing the bulk of the yellow jackets, but you may not kill the queen. 

You may also want to try dishwashing liquid, such as Dawn, and water. In this case, the water doesn’t have to be hot. Again, you will want to try spraying the liquid down the hole around sunset, when most of the workers are in the nest, and the nest itself is less active. Other people have had success with vinegar and water as well, or peppermint. Vinegar seems to kill off the yellow jackets, while peppermint repels them. It appears yellow jackets hate any kind of mint smell, so spraying mint around your entrances may be helpful to keep them away from you and your family while you’re outside. 

Some people have also found success pouring bleach and water down the hole where the nest is, or spraying the entrance to the nest with WD40. No matter what version of home remedies you try, you need to know that this is a temporary solution at best. In fact, the yellow jackets will continue to come back, year after year, and the best you can do is try to keep them away from your home. 

When to Call in the Pros

No home remedy is going to work forever. You will be running a constant battle with the yellow jacket population. However, there are times you are going to need to call a professional for your yellow jacket problem. If you cannot locate any yellow jacket nests, you are going to need the help of a professional. You may also want to get professional help if you have family members that are allergic to yellow jacket stings, as that condition is life-threatening. If you have tried all of the do -it-yourself methods, and you can’t seem to get a handle on the yellow jacket problem, you will want to contact a professional as well. 

Pest control companies can use pesticides to help remove yellow jackets from your yard for a while, but they will have to continue to come out and check for new nests a few times each year to truly keep them under control. By calling a professional, you should be able to keep your yellow jacket problems to a minimum.