Yellowjacket Control Guide: How To Manage Yellowjacket Pests In Gardens

(Image credit: Bernard Lynch)

Yellowjackets aren’t all bad. They are effective pollinators and eat certain unwanted pests. However, everything isn’t in their favor. Yellowjackets, which may be called European wasps in areas like Australia, are highly aggressive members of the hornet family that go to great lengths to protect their nests. Additionally, yellowjackets have been known to kill bees and other beneficial insects. True scavengers that love meat and sweet food, yellowjackets are a real nuisance at outdoor get-togethers. They become even meaner when colonies are large and food is scarce. So, how to manage yellowjacket pests? Read on.

Killing Yellowjackets

Here are some tips on yellowjacket control in the landscape:

  • Watch closely for newly started nests in spring. Knock them down with a broom while the nests are still small. Likewise, you can place a bug-zapper near the entrance to the nest. Yellowjackets will zealously attack the “intruder.”
  • Purchase lure traps, which are readily available for yellowjacket management during the summer months. Follow directions closely and replace the lures frequently. Lure traps work best by trapping queens in late winter or early spring.
  • Make a water trap for killing yellowjackets. Fill a 5-gallon bucket with soapy water, then hang fresh bait such as liver, fish, or turkey on a string suspected 1 or 2 inches (2.5-5 cm.) above the water. Like commercial lure traps, water traps work best in late winter or early spring.

Yellowjacket stings are painful, and in some cases, may even be deadly. Don’t hesitate to call an exterminator. They know how to manage yellowjacket pests safely, especially if the colony is large or difficult to get to. Controlling yellowjackets in underground nests may need to be handled differently.

  • To trap yellowjackets in underground nests, place a large glass bowl over the entrance on a cool morning or in the evening when the yellowjackets are moving slowly. Yellowjackets “borrow” existing holes, so they are unable to create a new entrance. Just leave the bowl in place until the yellowjackets die out.
  • You can also pour boiling, soapy water into the hole. Be sure to do this in late evening. Wear protective clothing, just in case.

Killing Yellowjackets and Not Bees

Yellowjackets are often confused with bees, which are threatened by colony collapse disorder. Please be sure you know the difference before killing yellowjackets. Bees are relatively gentle insects that sting only when swatted or stepped on. They may defend their territory, but they aren’t easily provoked. Unlike yellowjackets, they won’t chase you. Yellowjackets have thin, well-defined “waists.” Bees are fuzzier than yellowjackets.

Mary H. Dyer

A Credentialed Garden Writer, Mary H. Dyer was with Gardening Know How in the very beginning, publishing articles as early as 2007.