Thorn is a local Utah pest management company. We are a QualityPro certified company which is a prestigious accreditation awarded to less than 3% of the pest management companies in the US.
Yellowjackets are a very common wasp that are noticeably more aggressive than their lookalikes.
Yellow jackets are frequently confused with other stinging pests such as:
- Paper wasps
- Bald-faced hornets (also known as white-faced hornets)
- Mason wasps
- Potter wasps
- Mud Dauber wasps
- Bumble bees
Identification is the first and most important part of any pest control issue, and when you’re dealing with stinging insects, it is vital to be able to tell the difference between pests. This is especially important when it comes to beneficial pollinators.
So, how do you tell the difference between yellowjackets and other stinging pests? Read on or visit our stinging insect guide for additional resources.
DEFINITION: When people hear “pollination” they often think of honeybees, but there are many insects (and animals!) responsible for pollination, including bees and wasps, butterflies and moths, hummingbirds, flies, beetles and bats. These animals and insects are considered beneficial pollinators and are crucial to our eco-system and food production. Notice this list includes bees and wasps. The only problem? Bees and wasps are commonly confused with yellow jackets, and vice versa.
Utah has an incredibly diverse bee population. Protect the beneficial bees in our beautiful Beehive State! Make sure you’re 100% sure of what you’re dealing with before carrying out any pest control measures, and if you can’t be sure, reach out to us for help with identification and remediation.
Are There Yellow Jackets in Utah?
There are definitely yellowjackets in Utah, and plenty of them!
The Western yellowjacket (Vespula pensylvanica) are found through the western areas of North America and pose a serious health risk to humans given their aggressive nature and ability to sting repeatedly.
While yellow jackets prefer to nest in areas that are left alone, that doesn’t mean they won’t nest around humans. In fact, yellow jackets commonly use our structures and yards to construct their nests, selecting areas such as:
- Wall voids
- Gaps that lead into the attic or crawlspace
Of the stinging insects, it is yellowjackets, bald-faced hornets and giant hornets that are of greatest concern when it comes to health and safety risks. If you are unsure what stinging insect is causing an issue around your property, take a look at our stinging insect guide or our pest library.
How to Identify Yellow Jacket Activity
Noticing wasps at your picnic, hovering around sweet items or meat? These may be yellowjackets.
If you notice yellowjackets around your home or yard, start by trying to determine where they are coming from.
Understand that there is a big difference between foraging activity and indications of an active nest.
You may see significant numbers of yellowjackets, bees or wasps active in your garden, yard or around certain plants. This is likely foraging activity.
When looking for an active nest, you should be looking for something called a distinct flight path. This is a flight line of wasps or bees coming and going from a specific, distinct spot. Yellowjackets, like many insects, prefer to nest outside in undisturbed areas, but
Outside, yellow jackets will often come and go from nest constructed inside:
- Abandoned, underground rodent burrows
- Hollowed-out trees
- Wood or brush piles
- Compost piles
Once you have determined a distinct flight path, it’s time to figure out exactly where the nest is and what insect was responsible for building it. This can be tricky (and dangerous), especially if the wasps responsible are yellow jackets.
Yellow jackets are especially sensitive to vibration and are known to be aggressive when it comes to protection of themselves and their nest. Considering many yellowjacket nests are underground or found in more secluded outdoor areas, this makes stumbling over (or into) one much easier.
With a yellowjacket nest nearby, simple sunny-time activities like mowing the lawn, playing tag or gardening can become dangerous. It’s important to deal with yellow jackets quickly and carefully to avoid injury. By peak season (mid to late summer), there can be as many as 5,000 workers present and they can continue to be active into the fall.
What Does a Yellowjacket Nest Look Like?
The majority of wasps and bees build nests for raising their brood (young). Inside these nests, they protect and feed the egg-laying queen in order to produce workers that will continue to grow the hive.
Yellow jackets are aggressive and are commonly confused with other pests. For these reasons, it’s essential to know what you’re looking for, so you don’t need to get too close.
Yellow jackets construct closed nests out of paper. They are commonly found in abandoned rodent burrows underground or in hollowed out trees but can also be found in wall voids, attic spaces, and crawlspaces. All you may see are yellowjackets coming and going from a small hole in the ground. If you can see the nest, the bottom of the nest should be more rounded as opposed to egg shaped. Be careful! Yellow jackets can become very aggressive when they sense surrounding vibrations.
Bald-faced Hornets (sometimes called white-faced hornets) also construct closed, paper nests, but they almost exclusively build them around the limbs of trees, bushes, or shrubs. Their nests are more pointed and egg shaped at the bottom, and while they are not as aggressive as yellow jackets, they are still territorial and may sting.
Paperwasps construct open-faced, umbrella shaped nests where you can see into the cells of the hive. These nests stay relatively small ( somewhere around 5-30 workers throughout the season), and their workers are considered non-aggressive.
Bees are fuzzy in appearance, where wasps and hornets are smooth and slick. The hairs that bees have help bees pick up pollen and move it from flower to flower. Bees can be easily confused with yellowjackets and other more aggressive pests, especially bees that are known to nest underground.
If you’re dealing with a ground nest in Utah and you’re not sure if the culprits are bees or yellowjackets, give Thorn a call and we’d be happy to help determine what you might be dealing with.
4 Ways to Keep Yellow Jackets Away
Getting rid of yellow jackets is a tricky business. Not only does it require proper identification and location of the nest, but it also requires adequate safety measures in order to avoid stings.
If you’re hoping to get rid of yellowjackets with a chemical treatment, it is always recommended to hire a professional for this task due to the yellowjackets’ aggression. Luckily, there are some easy steps you can take to drastically reduce their presence.
1. Physical Removal
In the spring, pests emerge from overwintering.
Overwintering yellowjacket queens commonly pop up inside in spring, buzzing around windows or lights and causing alarm. Early in the spring months, these awakening queens are solitary and need to make their way outside to find a suitable nesting location.
Their flight will be slow and lethargic, and they are not considered aggressive…yet.
Sometimes, these overwintering queens are hidden in a garage, attic or crawlspace and when they wake up, they emerge inside. If you find a dormant queen in the winter or have a yellowjacket queen buzzing around your windows, don’t panic!
These wasps can easily be vacuumed up or squished. Not only will this address the sudden concern of a yellow jacket inside, but it will also prevent that queen from making her way outside to start a nest.
This method of yellow jacket control is all about timing, and it works best in areas that have a history of ongoing yellowjacket issues.
You’ve likely seen these plastic wasp traps hanging from trees. There are different styles of traps, but all work the same way.
Most people assume that these traps work throughout the season, but they are specifically made to attract queens that are coming out of overwintering to start their nests. This reduces yellowjackets in the area as the season, but also means that they are most effectively used in the late winter/early spring, before overwintering queens start looking for nesting spots.
3. Reduce Food Sources
Also called ‘meat bees’, yellow jackets are frequent and unwanted visitors of summer BBQs and picnics.
They are drawn to protein rich food, which they forage and feed to their young. Mature yellowjackets are drawn to sweet food sources, including fruits and dessert items.
If you’re outside enjoying the weather and pesky yellowjackets are bothering you, ensure that any food sources are covered so that wasps cannot access them, and keep an eye on where their nest might be. If you spot the nest, call a professional to come and handle treatment before the nest continues to multiply in size.
4. Stay Away from Heavy Scents
Yellowjacket workers are often out and about foraging for food. While the young feed on protein rich foods such as meat and insect parts, the adults prefer sweet foods.
Don’t trick them with heavily scented perfumes, soaps or fragrance sprays. These may make the yellowjackets think there’s a sweet treat nearby. The last thing you want to do is attract the yellow jackets to you!
Get Rid of Yellowjackets in Utah
While there are chemical products available for purchase at hardware stores, these products are not ideal for yellowjacket control and greatly increase the risk of personal harm. Leave chemical treatment up to the pros, who will make sure treatment is safe, quick and effective.
If you need help with a yellow jacket issue around your Utah home, Thorn is here to keep you and your loved ones safe from stings. With top-of-the-line products and state-of-the-art methods available to us, Thorn will help make sure that yellowjackets keep their distance this spring and summer.
Let Thorn handle your yellowjacket worries this spring or summer, so you can get back to grilling, playing and soaking up the sun. Just don’t forget your sunscreen!