by John Zimmerman
Buffalo Exterminating Company
A sure sign of summer is the yellow jacket wasps that come uninvited to pool parties, picnics and other outdoor activities. Note, yellow jackets are wasps, not bees, but no matter what they are called, these pests can be more than a nuisance. Yellow jacket wasps defend their nests aggressively, and have been known to repeatedly sting children, pets and adults. While there is no one-size-fits-all solution to eliminating and preventing problems with yellow jackets, there are a number of steps homeowners can take to ensure summer fun is not disrupted by these insects.
Prevention measures start with a better understanding of the yellow jacket wasp. Keep in mind, yellow jacket wasps can be beneficial because their primary food source is other insects. These wasps range from 3/8 to 5/8 inches with distinctive black and bright yellow markings on their head, thorax and abdomen. They fly directly to and from nesting sites at a relatively consistent rate compared with honey bees, which cluster in large numbers just outside nest openings.
Yellow jackets construct new nests each spring from fertilized queens that have survived the winter. All other members of a colony die off as cold weather arrives. These wasps build nests from a paper-like product they create. Nests vary from a few hundred to many thousands of individual wasps, and are usually found in the ground, in bushes, in trees, or inside buildings in walls, attics, and chimneys.
Yellow jackets are persistent pests because they forage for food far away from their nests. When yellow jackets are simply foraging in the yard or picnic area, consider steps to make the surroundings less attractive to them. For example, limit the availability of sweet drinks and greasy foods. Soft drinks and fruit drinks are favorites of yellow jackets, as are barbecued meats. These food odors drift for long distances and can draw the wasps from many directions. Clean up spilled food and beverages immediately and dispose of empty beverage containers. Cover standing food or put it away as soon as possible. Use trash cans with tight-fitted lids and keep trash areas clean.
For personal protection against yellow jackets, wear light-colored clothing, as they are attracted to bright colors and are often aggressive to dark colors. Avoid sweet perfumes, colognes and deodorants that can attract them.
Other tips to consider include commercial yellow jacket traps, which can be quite effective by capturing large numbers of foraging wasps when placed to intercept them between their nest and food source. Seal holes in exterior surfaces especially in mortar seams, around windows and doors, chimneys, loose siding, and along rooflines to help prevent nesting in the home.
Over-the-counter treatments kill any yellow jacket wasps contacted, but caution must be taken to avoid being attacked by agitated wasps. Remember, yellow jackets react very aggressively when their nest is first treated. The chances of receiving multiple wasp stings are greatly increased at the time of treatment. What's more, many aerosol wasp sprays damage vinyl siding.
The most effective solution may be to seek professional assistance to locate and eliminate yellow jacket nests. Protective equipment, proper application tools and expertise help to properly treat nests, especially those located deep in structural voids. And the danger of an inexperienced homeowner being stung is eliminated.
Property owners can find more information on yellow jackets on Buffalo Exterminating's website at www.buffaloexterminating.com.
Founded in 1954, Buffalo Exterminating is the area's oldest locally owned pest management company. The company has a service center on Niagara Falls Boulevard in Wheatfield for fast, responsive service to residents of Niagara County. In addition to bees and wasps, Buffalo Exterminating specializes in the elimination of and protection against pests such as ants, bed bugs, rodents, bats and nuisance animal trapping and exclusion.