Yellow JacketThe yellow jacket is actually a wasp. Common species include the European yellow jacket as well as the eastern and western yellow jacket, all of which reside in parts of the United States. These beasts are notably more aggressive and dominant compared to their insect counterparts and can be quite a nuisance to homeowners who deal with them. Due to their famous attitudes and dominance, these creatures are often the faces for high school team mascots, energy drinks, and a slew of other marketing and advertising motifs.

Physical Attributes - What Do Yellow Jackets Look Like?

Yellow Jackets are true to their names and have both black and yellow bodies. Yellow markings are found near the head as well as on their bottom half, particularly around the abdomen. Some may have patches of white. Their bodies measure around 10mm to 16mm long. Queens are largest, around 19mm. These pests are characterized by their big black eyes, which are almost bulgy, and long antennas. Wings are rested lengthwise when not in flight, similar to traditional bees, which they are often confused for. Bees share similar coloration and body mass, as well as markings, but yellow jackets have thinner waists compared to bees, who are thicker.  The closest relative to the bee, however, is the hornet, which also resembles the yellow jacket in appearance. The only difference is the hornet’s much larger head. You may be able to pick out a yellow jacket by its flight pattern, which is fast and moves side to side.

Lifestyle - Where Do Yellow Jackets Live?

You can find yellow jackets anywhere in the world. North America, however, is known for their large population of yellow jackets, especially in Southern states such as Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. They may even go as north as Tennessee or Kentucky but will be less likely to survive in the winter. These pests are likely to be around due to the heat and humidity, where warmer temperatures mean better survival. High heat allows for year round nest building, and mild winters mean less chance to have to rebuild nests due to the cold. The most common species in the United States is the Western Yellow Jacket.

Where Do They Build Their Nests?

Yellow jackets do not mind building their nests wherever they might see possible. They are quite adaptable creatures. Cities, country or near the ocean are all places you are likely to spot them. Because nests are built in most places unreachable to humans, yellow jackets are able to be more versatile in their housing selection. Some colonies build their nests in trees or on rooftops, while others might even go as far as underground burrows to start a nest. Sidewalk cracks, under steps and porches and in bushes are all places you might find them.

What Do Yellow Jackets Eat?

Anyone who has seen a yellow jacket must know they have a big appetite. You will find them around food, meat, and sweets very often, and outdoor events, as well as near trash cans where they hunt for leftover food. Unlike honey bees, yellow jackets are actually carnivores and eat other insects. Yellow jackets also like to eat nectar from flowers when they can find it. When they are eating these two things, they will often prey on trash and food left around by humans. If you happen to catch one eating, know that the yellow jackets nest isn’t too far away. These creatures will normally build nests in areas a mile or less from where they find their latest meals. Some might view them as beneficial for the things they eat, which might include beetles, flies and a number of other more annoying pests, but most of us might not like the thought of them.

How Do Yellow Jackets Behave?

Yellow jackets are like any other insect, as they live in colonies and have hierarchies.  The queen leads the colony as well as reproduces, while the drone and the workers are her support. Workers responsibilities involve any maintenance and labor around the colony, and they also live to fertilize the queen yellow jackets so she can reproduce.

Why Do Yellow Jackets Sting?

Yellow jackets are not necessarily malicious insects, but their job is to protect their nest. For this reason, any disturbance or threat to their colony and queen could result in a sting. This means if you have a nest in your backyard, you might want to be weary. Anyone who approaches more than a few feet will feel the wrath of the yellow jacket, which will include a sting, but nothing more. These insects do not leave their stingers behind in the way honey bees do. However, they are painful, nonetheless! Yellow jackets are unique in the fact that they do not leave venomous fluid behind when they sting and they can sting multiple times - and likely will! - in their lifetime.

How Do Yellow Jackets Build Their Nests?

Queen will build their nests around springtime. The queen of the colony, called the foundress, will collect wood fibers, which she will mix with her saliva to form a solid paper-like nest. She will build the nest small, then lay her first set of eggs, who she will care for until they mature. The first offspring of the queen are actually all females, who will later go on to be queens in the future. Male yellow jackets are born later in the season. The nest itself will actually resemble honeycomb-like that of a honey bee. These nests can be much bigger in size than other bees and insects, as they can contain as many as one thousand workers. Each new nest will be rebuilt every year and will be left to birds who scavenge them for food. Yellow jackets themselves will only survive one season of life, while the queen goes on to create more nests in different areas, after winter. Nests will often times reach the size of basketballs by the end of the season.

Getting Rid of Yellow Jackets - How Do I Get Rid of My Yellow Jackets?

Be sure to reduce the amount of garbage and food matter you may have in the area during summer as well as spring. Trash cans and dumpsters need to be kept closed and emptied on a regular basis. Even the smallest amount of trash is likely to attract yellow jackets, as they are excellent scavengers. One of the biggest steps you can take is to prepare before the problem starts.

The first step to solving your pest problem is to find each nest or nests. You can do this by looking for yellow jackets that enter and exit the nest itself. Mark these areas so that you can focus on them later. The best time to attack is at night when yellow jackets are in their nest for the night and cannot see you. The nest can be killed with aerosols found in stores, which fill the colony with a gas that kills on contact. Secondly, you will want to use insecticides, which will prevent future insects for starting another colony. After you do these things, verify the yellow jackets are dead and repeat the procedure if necessary.

Another way to kill yellow jackets is to bait them. Create some sort of station with food or sweet drinks, and add insecticide or insect killer to the mixture. This can be a helpful technique if you do not know where their nest is, or so that you can lure them away from picnics or outdoor events where there will be food.