We’re officially in the middle of April, which means that yellow jacket season is just around the corner. For many, the sight of a yellowjacket causes feelings of fear, dread, and annoyance. With their painful stings and aggressive temperament, it’s no wonder that most are not fond of the insect. However, for the select few that are allergic to bee stings, the sight of yellowjackets is a potentially dangerous and lethal occurrence that is only exacerbated by how prolific the species is during the summer. With it still being early, now is the time to be vigilant of any signs of forming yellowjacket nests. By knowing their behaviors and nesting tendencies, you can put a stop to any new nests before they become big enough to necessitate pest control.
The term yellowjacket actually refers to a number of different species of wasps. The ground-nesting western yellowjacket is included in this grouping and is the most commonly encountered species. The western yellowjacket accounts for the overwhelming majority of stinging incidents recorded, and are the most noxious species. Yellowjackets are sometimes mistaken for “bees” due to similar size and appearance. However, yellow jackets are a type of wasp. Unlike bees, yellowjackets do not have furry bodies or carry pollen. They are identifiable by their distinctive markings, thin “waists,” and their side-to-side flight pattern.
Yellowjackets begin making their nests in spring when a single queen who overwinters becomes active due to the warming weather. Once she emerges in late winter/earl spring, she will start her mission of feeding and starting a new nest. The nest grows considerably between spring and summer, and workers will seek out other insects to feed the increasing number of larvae. By late summer, the colony will have grown quite large. Yellowjacket colonies usually only live out for one summer. After, the new queens abandon the nest to start new colonies, and the remaining yellowjackets die at the end of the summer. They do not reuse the same nest next year.
Yellowjackets build both paper and ground nests. Aerial-nesting yellowjackets will usually build their paper nests attached to the eaves of a building or hanging off of the limb of a tree. However, yellowjackets will also build their nests anywhere that is generally undisturbed such as between walls and within ceilings. Yellowjackets build their paper nests out of paper they make from wood bits mixed with saliva. Fully built, it resembles multiple tiers of vertical cells with a single entrance hole usually at the bottom of the nest. Ground-nesting yellowjackets usually utilize rodent burrows for their nests. If the nest grows too big for the hole, yellowjackets will increase the size by burrowing.
Yellowjackets are incredibly aggressive and will vehemently defend their nests. Though all wasps will defend their nests, yellowjackets do so with the most fervor. When disturbed, they will bite and sting simultaneously and repeatedly. Because wasp stingers do not have barbs, yellowjackets can continue to sting the subject a considerable number of times. This can be exacerbated by the sheer number of yellowjackets that can inhabit a single nest, with populations reaching between 1,500 and 15,000, depending on species. Their defensive behavior only gets more rambunctious throughout the continuation of summer as the colony populations become larger and food becomes scarcer. Yellowjackets can be killed with general pesticides, but due to their aggressive nature and sheer numbers, calling pest control might be necessary for removing a particularly large nest, especially if it has made its way into your home.
So, if you happen to see a yellowjacket starting to build her nest within the next few weeks, address it right away. Killing the nest now with pesticides will eliminate the need for pest control to remove a nasty, huge nest once summer arrives. Staying vigilant will help keep yellowjackets at bay and protect you from getting stung. However, if you do find yourself needing pest control to remove a wasp nest later in the season, then call Antworks. We not only provide our services in Vancouver, but also provide pest control in Tacoma, WA.