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Fall Season Brings Out Yellow Jackets

Get prepared for insects that have their second peak of activity in the fall, particularly yellow jackets. Many people encounter and experience painful stings from these wasps during outdoor activities such as tailgating.

Yellow jackets are black-and-yellow social wasps. Hornets and yellow jackets are the most common wasp groups, said Dr. Xing Ping Hu, an entomologist with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System. Hornets usually construct exposed nests in the branches of trees and shrubs or on recessed structures. They also may construct nests in cavities.

yellowjackets Nesting

Most yellow jacket species are ground nesting. However, some nest in buildings or in tree cavities and structural voids.

Yellow jackets begin new colonies by mated overwintered females who become foundress queens. The new nests, which are usually constructed in May, may contain a dozen developmental cells. By fall, annual nests typically contain 300 to 120,000 developmental cells, depending on the species and environmental conditions.

In some places in the South, large perennial colonies have been maintained by some species and are ruled by multiple queens, tended by thousands of workers and contain millions of cells, added Dr. Hu.

Tools for Managing

The most useful tool for managing yellow jackets is arguably, a dust applicator, Hu said. Hand dusters and air dusters are the more common applicators. These should be operated by a pest control professional who wears protective garments.

Dr. Hu said the advantage of using a dust formulation is that the dust can be carried by air deep into cavities and voids of wasp nests. The dust particles remain on the concealed surfaces, awaiting contact with foraging yellow jackets, which, in turn, contaminate other nest mates.

Using wettable powder insecticides in surface-treating yellow jacket nests can accelerate the colony-elimination process. This permits same day nest removal, said Hu.

“If aerosol and mist insecticides, such as pyrethirins and other botanical extracts are used, they should be applied directly on to bodies of yellow jackets to kill them. Another effective way is to treat nest cavities after dark when nest members are contained within the treatment zone,” said Hu.

Although it is necessary to close off multiple entry points of wasps from structural voids to the living and work species, homeowners should never caulk close an exterior entrance to an active yellow jacket nest in a structure. This action only alarms the trapped wasps and causes them to seek out alternative escape routes to the outdoors.

Remember, all female and worker wasps and bees can sting repeatedly, except for honeybees, said Hu. With occasional stings comes the likelihood of increased sensitivity to venom. Also, remember to be cautious of small areas bare of vegetation, because they could be ground nests of yellow jackets. People should exercise care and wear protective clothing when treating wasps.


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  1. Today 11/11/14 a Triatomine bug, kissing bug, exterminator killed one that crawled out from around window outside, I’ve heard they are here from Central America and their bite can cause a parasite infection called chagas and can be very dangerous to your health. I was wondering if there were anymore reports from Jefferson County. I live in Mount Olive.