Auburn, Alabama —With spring here, many forms of wildlife previously dormant during winter are now emerging throughout Alabama’s wilderness. Most of this wildlife consists of different types of insects such as wasps, particularly ones called yellow jackets.
Yellow jackets are one of the common forms of wasps in North America, and get their names from the yellow and black coloring on their bodies. Yellow jackets actually consist of multiple species that come from two different genera of wasp: Vespula and Dolichovespula. The most common species of yellow jacket in the South is the Southern yellow jacket (Vespula squamosa). Yellow jackets are commonly mistaken for bees, but they are highly aggressive wasps, not bees.
Dr. Xing Ping Hu is a specialist of entomology and plant pathology for The Alabama Cooperative Extension System, whose specialty areas include structural and household pest management. Dr. Hu said yellow jackets are responsible for almost all of the bee sting deaths in the United States. Yellow jackets usually nest in structures, wall voids, crawlspaces, attics and cracks and make nests of paper from fibers in wood and saliva, but also nest in ground.”
Unlike other stinging insects, yellow jackets like to sting people. Each insect can sting repeatedly, they generally attack in large numbers, and are especially dangerous in summer.
So how do you deal with yellow jackets if they become too much of a problem near you, or if they get into your home? Dr. Hu said, “Traps are the most effective way to capture yellow jackets trying to muscle in on a picnic or other outdoor event, and they can also be used to cut the numbers in an underground nest.”
Dr. Hu had very specific instructions if homeowners decide to use this pesticides. “Make sure to aim the chemical into the nest entrance so that the product reaches the nesting area. A powder formula, (puffing it into the entrance), works better than liquid spray. You must dress protectively and do the treatment later in the evening when all the wasps have returned to the nest or early in the morning before they fly out of the nest.” Dr. Hu said due to the dangers of yellow jackets and pesticide use, pesticide control is better left to professionals.
Dr. Hu was quick to remind those who are dealing with yellow jackets that there is one method you should not use. “Under no circumstances should you attempt to kill ground bees by pouring gasoline or other generic chemicals into the nest. Doing so will poison the ground, killing both plants and animals. It may also prove to be a fire or health hazard to humans.”
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