During the spring in New England, yellow jackets come out of dormancy and begin feeding and looking for a place to begin a colony. Yellow jackets mate just before winter, so when spring hits there are many new yellow jacket queens, each capable of starting a colony that can contain between 500 and 5000 yellow jackets. Yellow jackets can nest in many different settings, so it is important to be aware of signs that may indicate that yellow jackets are nesting in the home or yard.
Indentifying Yellow Jackets and Nests
Yellow jackets look similar to honey bees, with yellow and black bodies and long wings. The waist is narrower than bees, however, and the hind legs are not extended for pollen collection, as bees’ legs are. Yellow jackets can nest underground, inside of the walls of homes and other structures, and in trees or dried out stumps.
Yellow jacket nests are papery and are composed of tiny cells that the yellow jackets create using chewed up wood from the surrounding area. When yellow jacket nests are underground, they may be identifiable by small piles of dirt and stones that are piled up around the openings.
Dangers of Yellow Jackets
Yellow jackets are aggressive and will actively defend nests by swarming and stinging perceived threats. Yellow jackets can sting multiple times in rapid succession, causing moderate pain. In most victims, the pain and irritation of yellow jacket stings fades and heals quickly, but reactions may be more severe for those that are allergic. When yellow jackets build nests in homes, yards, or free standing structures, it can be dangerous for children and families.
Yellow jacket nests can become quite large and heavy. Since yellow jackets use materials from the surrounding structures to build the nest, yellow jackets may begin to wear away the walls or ceiling of home, barns, sheds, or other chosen nesting areas. If residents fail to notice the activity, nests can fall through worn areas, causing structural damage and putting residents in harm’s way.
Preventing Yellow Jacket Infestations
Since yellow jackets eat insects, trash, and debris, home residents can help to discourage yellow jackets away from the home and yard by making conditions as unfavorable as possible. Storing trash in covered bins away from the home and keeping the yard neat can help keep yellow jacket food sources to a minimum.
Keeping walls sealed and doing periodic inspections around the eaves and borders of the yard can help home residents to spot yellow jacket nests before they have become too large to handle. If nests are spotted, home residents should call a professional pest exterminator like Bain Pest Control to avoid being stung and to thoroughly eliminate the colony.