Yellow jackets and other wasps feed on numerous types of insects, including common insect pests to gardens. Because of this, some gardeners appreciate a healthy wasp population in their yard, but from August until October, wasp populations reach their peak. Also, due to the decrease in available insect-meals come fall, yellow jackets gravitate into residential areas in order to scavenge for human food sources.
During the late summer and early fall months, yellow jackets often invade cookouts and picnics in search of sugary foods and carrion, such as hamburgers, steaks and other sources of meat. Naturally, this yellow jacket habit leads to many unwanted, and sometimes, tragic encounters with humans, as yellow jackets are able to inflict repeated stings that deliver venom which may induce a potentially fatal allergic response in some individuals.
Yellow jackets can maintain a hidden presence within residential yards during the summer, as they typically nest in underground burrows, but they occasionally build paper nests as well. These paper nests are built in areas that offer protection from harsh weather conditions. For example, paper nests are often found below the overhangs of houses, sheds and garages. Paper nests are sometimes constructed within bushes, and according to James Dill, pest management specialist with University of Maine Extension, many yellow jacket attacks occur while residents are mowing their lawns, using weed trimmers or while operating other forms of machinery that disturb nesting yellow jackets. Disturbing nesting yellow jackets in this manner is easy to do when the insects are nesting below the ground, as ground nests are not easy to spot.
Residential yards also provide yellow jackets with numerous sources of sustenance, including water, fallen fruits, pet food, human food and garbage. If a yellow jacket nest is found in a high-traffic area around a home, it is wise to have the nest professionally removed in order to remain safe from the predatory insects. It is also worth noting that yellow jackets prefer to nest within bundles of firewood kept on properties. Keeping stored firewood covered and free of water will prevent yellow jackets from nesting in these areas.
Have you ever found an active yellow jacket nest in the ground on your property?