At first glance, yellow jackets, hornets, and other wasps look very much alike. Their disposition and habits, however, may be very different. Some are aggressive and will sting; others are beneficial and prey on insect pests. Some, such as the yellow jackets and hornets, are social and build nests which by summer’s end may contain thousands of individuals. Others, like the digger wasps and scoliid wasps, are solitary and don’t have large colonies.
Yellow jacket is the common name in North America for predatory wasps of the genera Vespula and Dolichovespula. Members of these genera are known simply as “wasps” in other English-speaking countries. Most of these are black and yellow; some are black and white like the bald-faced hornet, Dolichovespula maculata. Others may have the abdomen background color red instead of black. They can be identified by their distinctive markings, their occurrence only in colonies, and a characteristic, rapid, side to side flight pattern prior to landing. All females are capable of stinging. Despite having drawn the loathing of humans, yellow jackets are in fact important predators of pest insects.
Hundreds of yellow jackets attack mother, young kids
A mother and her two young children were nearly killed in a yellow jacket attack in Buckhead.
Channel 2’s Liz Artz learned the family was decorating their house when the attack happened.
Melissa Hodges had just put out their pumpkins when hundreds of yellow jackets swarmed her and her two children outside their home.
“We literally sat on their house and they swarmed us. It was the most terrifying moment of my life,” Hodges said.
Hodges, her 3-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter were under attack were attacked by the yellow jackets that came up from a nest under their front walk. She said she grabbed her kids and ran for cover.
“I was taking handfuls of yellow jackets and smashing them on our foyer,” Hodges said.
Her daughter, just 30 pounds, was stung 30 times and her little boy was stung only 12 times, but was allergic to the sting.
“His face was huge. He was passed out, slumped over,” Hodges said.
Hodges raced to the hospital where her children remained for the next two days. She said the wasp caused a pain that was unbearable for the small children.
“It was a burning like a match to your skin. It devastated me that my 4-year-old was feeling that kind of pain,” Hodges said.
Hodges said she had no idea the yellow jackets had nested in her yard and since the attack last week, has learned of several other people who have had to run for cover.
“Just get them taken care of or take care of them yourself,” said Jerry Billingslea from All Good Pest Solutions.
Billingslea said yellow jackets will be around until temperatures drop. He said even after several treatments, the Hodges aren’t out of the woods yet.
“They’re going to try and re-infest this nest,” Billingslea said.
In spring and early summer, yellow jackets are carnivores, feeding mostly on insects to provide protein to developing larvae in their colony. In doing so, they help keep garden pests, such as caterpillars, in check. As the season progresses, their population grows and their diet changes to include more sugars. As natural food sources become scarce, they turn to scavenging, and that’s when you’ll find them lurking around garbage cans and pestering picnickers. A few yellow jackets here and there are a nuisance, but a nest of them in your yard can pose a real hazard.
Yellow jackets often nest underground in rodent burrows, so if you see lots of flying insects emerging from a hole in the ground, they’re probably yellow jackets. By late summer, a colony may contain thousands of individuals that will aggressively defend their nests from intruders. They’re easily provoked and will attack in force, chasing the perceived threat for large distances. What’s worse, each yellow jacket can sting multiple times. Sounds and vibrations, such as those from a mower or trimmer, can trigger an attack, even from a distance.
If a yellow jacket nest poses an immediate threat to passersby, including pets, then you may need to take action .Be sure to positively identify the insects, however. You don’t want to inadvertently destroy the nests of bees or other look-alikes.
Yellow jackets are social hunters living in colonies containing workers, queens, and males (drones). Colonies are annual with only inseminated queens over wintering. Fertilized queens are found in protected places such as hollow logs, in stumps, under bark, in leaf litter, in soil cavities, and man-made structures. Queens emerge during the warm days of late spring or early summer, select a nest site, and build a small paper nest in which they lay eggs. After eggs hatch from the 30 to 50 brood cells, the queen feeds the young larvae for about 18 to 20 days. After that, the workers in the colony will take over caring for the larvae, feeding them with chewed up food, meat or fruit. Larvae pupate, and then emerge later as small, infertile females called workers. By midsummer, the first adult workers emerge and assume the tasks of nest expansion, foraging for food, care of the queen and larvae, and colony defense.
The yellow jacket can cause structural damage if a nest is built in wall or attic. Yellow jacket’s population increases to enormous levels towards the end of summer, and may be persistent, unwelcome guests at picnics, where they scavenge for food. The benefit is that they are predatory and eat many harmful insects.
From all of the above we know that yellow jackets can be docile as well as harmful. They can be really aggressive if someone is trying to threaten their nests and can also be helpful by eating the harmful pests.
These have advantages as well as disadvantages. So killing them with pesticides and insecticides is not the right way to go about it. The right way would be to find an alternative solution which only repels these wasps and not kill them.
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This product is available in the form of masterbatches and can be incorporated into polymeric applications. It is also available in the form of lacquer which can be coated onto our home walls and fences by preventing these wasps from entering our homes and gardens.
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