Alphabetical Plant Listing

Yellow Jacket

How to Get Rid of Yellow Jackets

What is a Yellow Jacket?

A yellow jacket is a type of wasp that is typically black and yellow in color. Yellow jackets are social insects that live in large colonies and are known for their aggressive behavior, especially when their nest is disturbed. They can be a nuisance to humans, particularly during the late summer and early fall when they are most active. Their stings can be painful and potentially dangerous for those who are allergic.

What Attracts Yellow Jackets?

Yellow jacket wasps are attracted to a variety of things, including sweet foods such as fruit, soda, and candy. They are also attracted to meat and protein-based foods, including pet food and human food scraps.

Additionally, yellow jackets are attracted to fragrant flowers, especially those that are white or yellow in color. They are also attracted to garbage and compost piles, as they are drawn to decaying organic matter.

In general, yellow jackets are attracted to anything that they perceive as a potential food source.

Regions impacted

Yellow jackets are found throughout North America, including Canada, the United States, and Mexico. Some species of yellow jackets are also found in Europe, Asia, and Africa.


A typical yellow jacket is a type of predatory wasp that is about ½ inch to ⅝ inch in length, with distinctive black and yellow stripes on its body. It has a slender waist and two pairs of wings that are transparent and can be folded flat over its body. The queen yellow jacket has a longer body and is usually larger than the workers. They have strong mandibles, which they use to chew and tear meat and other prey. Yellow jacket is similar in appearance to honeybees but has a more defined waist and lacks the fuzzy, branched hairs that bees have.

The yellow jacket is known for its aggressive behavior and can sting repeatedly.

Yellow Jacket Sting

Yellow jackets have smooth stingers that are designed to pierce the skin and inject venom. Unlike bees, their stingers have small barbs, which means they can sting multiple times without injuring themselves. The stinger is located at the end of the abdomen and is used for self-defense when the yellow jacket feels threatened. The stinger is made up of two parts: a stylus and a venom sac. When the yellow jacket stings, the stylus pierces the skin, and the venom is injected into the victim's body through the hollow tube of the stylus.

Their stings are painful and can cause swelling, redness, and itching at the sting site. In some people, the sting can cause a severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis, which can be life-threatening. Symptoms of anaphylaxis may include difficulty breathing, swelling of the throat and tongue, rapid heartbeat, and dizziness.

If you are stung by a yellow jacket and experience symptoms beyond mild swelling and redness at the sting site, seek medical attention immediately.

In most cases, mild symptoms can be treated with over-the-counter pain relievers, antihistamines, and topical ointments. It's important to remember to avoid swatting at yellow jackets or disturbing their nests, as this can provoke them to sting.

Yellow Jacket Nest

Yellow Jackets build their nests in a variety of locations, including underground, in tree hollows, in walls, and in attics. The nests are made of a papery material consisting of chewed-up wood fibers mixed with saliva. The nests can range in size from a few inches to several feet in diameter and can house thousands of yellow jackets. It's important to be cautious around yellow jacket nests as they can become aggressive if disturbed and will defend their colony by stinging. If you find a yellow jacket nest on your property, it's best to call a professional exterminator to safely remove it.

Life Cycle

The life cycle of a yellow jacket starts with a fertilized queen in the spring. The queen emerges from hibernation and searches for a suitable location to start her nest. Once she finds a location, she builds a small paper nest and lays her eggs. The eggs hatch into larvae, which the queen feeds with insects and other protein-rich foods.

After the larvae mature, they spin cocoons and pupate. The pupae eventually emerge as adult workers, which take over the care and expansion of the nest. The workers collect food for the larvae, defend the nest, and care for the queen.

As the summer progresses, the colony grows in size, and the workers become more aggressive in their defense of the nest. In late summer, the queen begins to produce reproductive offspring. These offspring are males and females, which mate and start the cycle over again in the following spring.

The life cycle of a yellow jacket is relatively short, with the colony usually dying off in the fall. However, the fertilized queens will hibernate through the winter and start the process over again in the spring.

Keep Yellow Jackets Away

Preventing yellow jackets from infesting your property is the best way to avoid problems with these aggressive insects. Here are some prevention and control measures:

  • Keep food and drinks covered and dispose of garbage properly.
  • Seal any cracks or openings in walls, windows, and doors to prevent yellow jackets from entering your home or building.
  • Use yellow jacket traps to capture and kill worker yellow jackets in the area.
  • Plant flowers and other plants that do not attract yellow jackets, such as marigold, geranium, spearmint, peppermint, lemongrass, pennyroyal, wintergreen, sage, rosemary, lavender, Roman chamomile, and thyme.
  • Keep your outdoor areas clean and free of debris.
  • Consider hiring a professional pest control service to inspect and treat your property for yellow jackets.

If you have a yellow jacket nest on your property, it is important to be careful and avoid disturbing the nest. It is best to hire a professional pest control service to remove the nest safely and effectively.

How to Get Rid of Yellow Jackets

Getting rid of yellow jackets can be tricky and dangerous, especially if you have an allergy to their venom. Here are some steps to follow:

Identify the nest location: Watch for where the yellow jackets are coming and going. The nest will usually be located nearby.

Wait until after sunset: This is when the yellow jackets will be less active and all in the nest.

Wear protective clothing: Cover your entire body with thick clothing, gloves, and a beekeeper hat or veil to protect yourself from stings.

Use a commercial insecticide: You can use a yellow jacket spray or dust, which is specially formulated to kill these insects. Be sure to follow the instructions on the product carefully.

Use a natural insecticide: If you prefer a natural approach, you can use a mixture of soap and water or peppermint oil and water. Spray the nest and the area around it.

Wait and observe: Wait a few days to ensure all yellow jackets are dead before removing the nest. You can seal the entrance with caulk or duct tape to prevent any new yellow jackets from moving in.

Traps: Yellow jacket traps can be purchased at most hardware stores. They work by attracting the yellow jackets with a sweet-smelling liquid and trapping them inside.

Call a professional: If you're not comfortable handling the problem yourself, consider calling a pest control professional. They have the experience and equipment to safely remove the nest and eliminate the yellow jacket population.

Guide Information

 Ant Cooper, Shutterstock

While every effort has been made to describe these plants accurately, please keep in mind that height, bloom time, and color may differ in various climates. The description of these plants has been written based on numerous outside resources.

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