4th of July & Yellow Jackets

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Happy Independence Day! With this national holiday comes lots of activities & meals outside. Often food and drinks draw some unwanted visitors. Yellow jackets enjoy many of the same summer spots as we do – the swimming pool, the picnic table, and even birdbaths. Many yellow jacket species are scavengers so are attracted to various foods, especially meats and sweets.

Birdbaths and small pools can be covered or moved to another location for a few days to break the habit of visiting yellow jackets. Avoid leaving containers of water or scraps of food around if yellow jackets are a problem. Be careful when drinking from open soda cans when you are outside since yellow jackets will go inside the cans to drink the sweet treat. Keep garbage cans closed tightly as these are favorite foraging sites.

When yellow jackets are around, remain calm. Don’t start swatting or running, as that can excite them and increase the risk of getting stung. Unlike the honeybee, which stings only once, yellow jackets can sting repeatedly. If someone is stung by yellow jackets, treat within the first five minutes to reduce the pain. Using ice on the sting is the best treatment, but you may want to try home remedies, such as table salt or baking soda moistened with water. Those with severe allergies to stings may need to seek medical help immediately or in extreme cases may need to carry an emergency sting treatment kit with them.

Even though yellow jackets can be a nuisance, they are considered to be a beneficial insect. They are beneficial in that they help in the breakdown of decaying matter and prey on some garden pests. If nests are close to a house or an area with high human activity, the yellow jackets can be destroyed. Depending on the species, the paper nests may be located in a bush or tree, in a wall or other structure, or in the ground. For aerial nests, use an aerosol wasp and hornet spray and spray the nest late in the evening when there is less activity. Direct the spray to the nest entrance. For nests in walls or in the ground, use a dust insecticide, such as Sevin™. Apply the dust to the entrance late in the evening, but do not seal it. Over the next several days, normal yellow jacket activity at the entrance will carry the insecticide inside the nest and kill them.

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Photo of Debbie Dillion, N.C. Cooperative ExtensionDebbie DillionExtension Agent, Agriculture - Horticulture (704) 283-3729 debbie_dillion@ncsu.eduUnion County, North Carolina
Updated on Jul 12, 2018
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