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Yellow jackets are ground-dwelling wasps that can be a significant concern for those with severe allergies to bee stings. Yellow jackets won’t typically attack humans, but when their nest is disturbed, they will fiercely defend their home. They won’t usually invade your house, but they will enter to search for food, acting aggressively if they are handled. They also pose a threat outdoors when nesting on your property or near your home. Learning about yellow jacket behavior will help keep you, your family, and your pets safe.

What Are Yellow Jackets?

Yellow jackets are wasps, but unlike typical wasps that build paper-like nests under the eaves of houses and in trees, they prefer to make their nests on the ground or underground in burrows. It can be hard to notice a yellow jacket nest, especially when grass and foliage have grown around the entrance.

These insects are hunters and gatherers and prey on pests such as beetle grubs and flies. They also scavenge for decaying organic matter, making them opportunistic when it comes to their feeding habits. Sugary foods, such as flower nectar, fruit, and soda, will attract them in numbers when they’re searching for nourishment.

They try to avoid larger animals and humans when possible, but when their nest is threatened, they will aggressively defend it. Yellow jackets are relentless and can sting multiple times. They are undeniably dangerous in certain situations and are a threat to your family’s health and safety when they have taken up residence on your property. A professional pest control agency, such as Bulwark Extermination, can help you control yellow jacket infestations.

What Do Yellow Jackets Look Like?

Image via Flickr by treegrow

Yellow jackets have an unmistakable yellow-and-black coloration, though some could be white-and-black striped. Adults grow up to 0.63 inches in length. Like all insects, they have six legs, and they have wings that span the length of their abdomens. There are possibly more than 16 different species in the United States alone, and each of them has varying patterns that make them easily identifiable. You can also distinguish yellow jackets from hornets and bees by their segments; yellow jackets have very small “waists” compared to hornets and bees.

Where Do Yellow Jackets Live?

You can find yellow jackets all across the United States — in places like Albuquerque and Las Vegas all the way over to Greensboro, North Carolina. Their natural habitat is outdoors in underground nests or nests situated at the bases of trees. They are social insects and work together to protect the queen and raise their young. In the spring, the queen will emerge to form a new nest. Female workers build the nest, tend to the young, and forage for food. If undisturbed, a yellow jacket nest can grow to house thousands of female workers. In areas with more moderate climates, the whole colony can survive through the winter and grow larger.

In some instances, yellow jackets build aerial nests that consist of chewed cellulose and resemble paper-like materials. They will place these under the eaves of houses or in trees, attics, wall voids, or bushes.

Common Problems With Yellow Jackets

Being scavengers makes yellow jackets a threat when you have leftover food, especially sweets and meat. Though they aren’t known to create any structural damage, they will chew through your home’s drywall to gain access to food sources. This causes cosmetic damage that can be unsightly. If you happen to have yellow jackets that have created a nest inside your house, they can be hard to deal with due to their overly protective nature. They will often locate their nests close to open trash cans and outdoor gathering places, quickly becoming a nuisance.

Other than being painful, a yellow jacket’s sting is otherwise harmless to those without allergies. People who have severe allergies to stings and bites will need to take precautions to avoid yellow jackets, especially when they are swarming. The severity of an attack on someone sensitive to their venom can be fatal, depending on the circumstances. Those who don’t have extreme reactions can become more sensitive after an attack and present more dangerous symptoms after a second attack. Additionally, yellow jackets will sting you multiple times if given the chance, and they will chase you for several yards.

When a yellow jacket colony grows out of control near your house, it’s best to let trained professionals treat the area and remove the nest.

How To Get Rid of Yellow Jackets

There are steps to take for keeping yellow jackets out of your home and off your property. Cleaning your house and ensuring there are no leftover foods, crumbs, or spills will deter them from entering to scavenge. It’s also helpful to regularly take out your trash to remove a potential food source. You can also try placing a variety of traps to reduce yellow jacket populations and discourage them from building colonies.

If you find a nest in the spring before it’s too large, you can try to eliminate it on your own with insecticide spray and dust. Spray the nest at night when yellow jackets are less active and have reduced visibility. Wait until the spray dries to apply the dust to the nest. If you’re not comfortable getting that close to the nest or the wasps have become aggressive, contact an exterminator. A professional extermination company is your best bet when looking to eliminate yellow jacket nests that have become a threat.

When you find yellow jackets on your property that don’t pose a potential threat, it is best to leave them undisturbed and allow them to help you keep other pests in check. They won’t attack your family or pets if you leave them alone. However, if these potentially aggressive wasps are too close to your home for comfort, it’s time to call in professionals to take care of the nest.

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