How to Get Rid of Yellow Jackets

Yellow Jacket Nest Removal and How To Kill Yellow Jackets Safely

How to Get Rid of Yellow Jackets
Getting rid of yellow jackets involves getting rid of their nests at night and preventing them from forming more nests during the spring and summer months.

Yellow Jacket Control Steps

Locate and Eliminate Yellow Jacket Nests

A. Sanitation ( to eliminate possible food sources)

Sanitation is important to reduce the foraging population's build-up during the summer to mid-autumn. Trash containers should be kept closed, and open containers should be emptied regularly.

B. Killing The Nest

Locate Nests: Nests should be located during the day so that you can identify the workers entering and exiting the entry points. Look for multiple entry points and mark them.

  1. Yellow Jackets are most active during the hottest part of the day, so inspect for the nests at that time.
  2. If they have made an underground nest, you may see small holes with the Yellow Jacket workers entering and exiting.
  3. Mark the entry points
  4. Treat at night, when the Yellow Jackets are least active.

Treatment: Only treat at night when it is dark. Yellow Jackets do not see well, and the chances of being stung are significantly reduced. Also, at night the whole colony will be present in the nest, making the treatment more effective.

  1. Treat the nest with pyrethrum aerosols such as Stryker 54 Contact Aerosol or PT 565. Pyrethrum forms a gas that will fill the cavity, killing the yellow jackets on contact.
  2. Wait until the aerosol is dry, and then dust in the opening with insecticide dust such as Tempo Dust. The dust will prevent future hatch outs. Dust the nest, entrance, and surrounding areas. Check the nest the following day to see if the yellow jackets are dead, which can be verified by lack of activity. Repeat, if necessary.
  3. Spray opening at night with pyrethrin aerosol.
  4. Wait until aerosol is dry (10-15 minutes), then dust opening with Tempo Dust (top choice for flying insects), Evergreen Dust (a speck of botanical insecticide dust), or D Fense Dust.
  5. For spraying the aerosol or using the dust in hard to reach areas, the Gotcha Sprayer Pro Adaptor fits on a standard extension pole to reach areas that a ladder is required.
  6. For best results, use Walt's Yellow Jacket Kit (Stryker 54 and Tempo Dust).

Key Takeaway

Regardless of the insecticide being used, or the nest location, treating yellow jacket nests after dark will greatly reduce your chances of being stung.

Products to Eliminate Yellow Jacket Nests

Baiting Yellow Jackets

The Alpine Yellow Jacket Bait Stations are designed to be used with Onslaught Insecticide. You supply the station with fresh meat and the Onslaught.

The yellow jackets are lured into the bait station; they ingest the meat/insecticide mixture, killing the yellow jackets.

This baiting system is used during the spring and summer months for the most common yellow jackets. This includes the scavenger yellow jackets that consume protein and meat.

During the fall months, yellow jackets prefer carbohydrates instead of meat.

Yellow Jacket Bait Products

Trapping Yellow Jackets

Yellow Jacket Traps are useful when you can not locate a nest. Use a lure like fruit juice or meat with Advantage Yellow Jacket Trap. This trap is very helpful during picnics and cookouts by drawing them away from you.

  1. Place the trap away from where you are going to be; you want to lure them in the trap.
  2. The traps come with a lure. However, meat works best early in the season, and fruit juice works well later in the summer and fall months.

Yellow Jacket Traps

Care and Caution

With a little care and caution, yellow jackets can be easily and safely eliminated.

  • Treat nest directly at night
  • Hang traps or bait stations away from children, people, and animals.
Yellow Jackets Are Aggressive

All wasps will defend their nests, but Yellow Jackets and hornets are the most aggressive. They can be distinguished from bees by their thin "waists." Bees are thick-wasted. Yellow Jackets fold their wings lengthwise when at rest. If a colony is disturbed, the Yellow Jackets can become very aggressive and sting. Make sure to inspect for yellow jacket nests before mowing the lawn or using trimmers. For most people, the yellow jacket sting is temporary but painful. However, for allergic individuals, a single sting may result in a serious reaction that requires medical treatment.

Yellow Jacket Identification and Habits

  • Size: 5/8 to 1 inch
  • Color: Black and Yellow or Black and White
  • They have a thin waist, in contrast to a bee.
yellow jackets eastern
Eastern Yellow Jacket
What Yellow Jackets Eat

Like all wasps, yellow jackets prey on a variety of insects and other arthropods. Yellow jackets will also forage on foods that people eat, especially sweets and meats. Yellow jackets are considered beneficial insects because they eat other insects. However, they are a nuisance to people because they are aggressive and leave painful stings. There are several yellow jackets in the USA; the western yellow jacket is the most common type, found in the northern temperate climates. The yellow jacket colony will remain active for only one summer. The queens will fly away to start more colonies. The remaining ones die at the end of the season. The nest is not reused (with the occasional exception of German yellow jackets).

western yellow jacket
Western yellow jacket
German Yellow Jacket
German Yellow Jacket
Southern Yellow jacket
Southern Yellow Jacket photograph by Jacopo Werther, Flickr

Yellowjacket Habits

Yellow Jackets are of the Vespula species and are social wasps. Several thousand workers can be produced in a colony in one season.

Types of Yellow Jackets and Yellow Jacket Nests

Yellow Jackets are of the Vespula species and are social wasps. Several thousand workers can be produced in a colony in one season.

  • Yellow jackets found in structures: The German Yellowjacket, which originated in Europe, is located across the northeastern and midwestern regions of the USA. It is widely distributed throughout much of the temperate areas of the USA. The German Yellowjacket usually nests in structures, wall voids, crawlspaces, attics, and cracks and crevices in the exterior surface of a building. The German yellowjacket has been a threat to the beekeeping industry. An entire colony of bees can be destroyed by aggressive workers. These Yellow jackets make nests of paper from fibers in wood and saliva. The German yellowjacket will reuse the previous year's nest.
  • Yellow jackets are found in both structures and ground: The common yellowjacket, Vespula Vulgaris, occurs in many states of the USA. They construct both above-ground and below-ground nests. The Eastern yellowjacket mostly has ground nests, but an aerial nest does occur. The Southern Yellowjacket (Vespula squamosa) has both aerial and terrestrial nests.
  • Yellow Jackets found in the ground: The Western Yellowjacket (Vespula pensylvanica) and Eastern Yellow Jackets ( Vespula maculifrons ) make their nests in the ground. Many people refer to yellow jackets as "meat bees." Yellow jackets will also use rodent burrows for nests, enlarging the cavity as the colony develops. You can see small stones or dirt particles piled up around the openings of a burrow that is used to house a large yellow jacket colony. They will often use other material near ground level that has available openings, such as railroad ties or concrete blocks.
  • Aerial Nests: Some Yellow jackets (D. areanara and D.maculata) build aerial nests hanging from a tree or attached to the eaves of buildings. These yellow jackets are not as aggressive. Use the Structural Yellow Jacket Kit in these situations.
Yellow jacket nest under ottoman
Yellow jacket nest under ottoman

Prevent Yellow Jackets

Yellow jackets (along with bees, wasps, and hornets) in our yards and landscapes are beneficial insects, but they can be a nuisance, and to some, a serious health hazard.

In many cases you can avoid problems with yellow jackets in the summer by doing three things:

  1. Finding and eliminating nests in late spring and early summer when their numbers are low and their nests are still small.
  2. Reduce their access to food.
  3. Trapping yellow jackets.

If you seem to have yellow jackets year after year, inspect the area in the late spring/early summer so that you can locate and treat any newly formed nests. Nests can most frequently be found in the ground but may be under overhangs or in wall voids of buildings. Ground nests are frequently located under bushes and shrubs, logs, landscape timbers and other protected areas. Entrance holes may have bare dirt around them. If you think you have found a nest, watch the opening to see if the yellow jackets are coming and going. Nests can occasionally be found in hollow posts, play equipment, and under outdoor tables and chairs.

Another method of preventing yellow jackets is to limit their access to food. Any food left outdoors, open trash cans, or uncovered compost piles should be removed or covered. Yellow jackets will remember the location of food sources, and will return to search that area again and again. Trash cans should have tight fitting lids and should be emptied and cleaned frequently.

Trapping is another important tool in preventing yellow jackets. It will not eliminate yellow jackets, but can greatly reduce their numbers. Traps are baited with an attractant and will allow yellow jackets to enter, but not escape. It is important to place traps around the perimeter of the area you want to protect so that you draw the yellow jackets away from that area. Be aggressive and use plenty of traps. Empty the traps and change bait frequently to ensure significant yellow jacket population reduction. Remember to always place traps out of reach of children.

Following these three steps in the spring and early summer should lead to fewer encounters with yellow jackets later in the year.

Here is an excellent video from the University of California describing the difference between yellow jackets, wasps, and mud daubers.

Written by our resident pest control expert Ken Martin.