Yellow Jackets

Karen Cambre, Sharpe, Kenneth W.

News article for August 14, 2017

Cutting grass has been a real problem this summer because of all the rain. There have been weeks that go by without a day dry enough to cut and even longer for the wettest of areas.

When your lawn goes undisturbed for weeks, you have the potential for yellow jackets to set up a nest in the ground. Unfortunately when you finally get there and cut, you may run over the nest making them very angry. This past weekend I noticed a lot of winged insects going into my azalea bed. That bed has a lot of pine straw and is ideal for yellow jackets to nest.

Starting in August wild flower production and other food sources for yellow jackets diminish and they move in closer to human dwellings to share our leftovers. We start football season shortly and the foods that we eat at tailgate parties are also attractive to yellow jackets. Yellow jackets like the same foods we like. Just about anything you eat or process outside, such as fish or wild game, is going to be an open invitation. They also love open garbage cans.

Sugary drinks are another draw for yellow jackets. They are so greedy that they will not even wait for you to finish, they will dive head first into your container of soda or lemonade when you sit it down. It is important to look before resuming consumption of your drink because you do not want to swallow a yellow jacket.

Yellow jackets are really just wasps but they are wasps with an attitude. They live in large colonies and are empowered by their sheer number. Typically they live in a circular nest in the ground. The nest will look like a large pie plate but it will have multiple stories like a high rise hotel. There will be at least one hole for entry and exit but there may be multiple ways in and out. These nests will accommodate hundreds or even thousands of yellow jackets.

Nests will usually be in an undisturbed area such as the edge of a tree line, in a flowerbed, at the base of a tree or maybe under the slide of the swing set. I have also seen yellow jackets build nests in attics, walls, under mobile homes, in an old car seat and in an abandoned mattress.

Hopefully you get to see yellow jackets before they find you. Most of the time we find yellow jackets nests because we accidently get in a place that they have claimed as their territory and we get stung. So how do you deal with a nest that is hard to get to and full of angry wasps?

Aerosol cans and pump up sprayers are no match for large numbers of yellow jackets and make you vulnerable to more stings. The better approach, especially for the in ground nests, is to use a method that delivers a volume of insecticide in a very short period that does not require great accuracy.

First, locate the nest by watching at a distance for the goings and coming of yellow jackets. In the late afternoon you can walk up to the area quietly and locate the hole in the ground. Then get a 5 gallon bucket and mix up 3 gallons of water plus the appropriate amount of insecticide in the bucket. (The insecticide choices would include Sevin, Acepthate, Malthion and Pyrethrin.) To the mix add several ounces of liquid soap which will add weight to their wings and make it harder to fly and easier for you to escape. Plan your strike for late afternoon or early morning when all residents are present but make sure it is light enough for you to see.

The final step is to dump, not pour, the whole bucket of solution all at one time over the hole. Pouring is too slow and will get you stung. Now drop the bucket and run inside. You can evaluate the results in about 12 hours. If you still have yellow jacket activity, repeat the process.

For more information on these or related topics contact Kenny at 225-686-3020 or visit our website at

5/9/2018 4:31:57 PM
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