You want to know why I hate yellow jackets? I'll tell you why.

A couple of years ago, photographer Ralph Anderson and I were on a photo shoot at John & Marsha Warren's home in the mountains of western North Carolina at the peak of fall color. We had nailed the timing just right, the photos were turning out great, and we felt like celebrating. So we bought some 22-oz. bottles of this really fine microbrew and placed them in the creek to chill. Here's a photo of John & Marsha's place.


After an hour or so, I popped open a beer, took a few delicious swallows and then put it down on a rock while I helped Ralph with a shot. I then returned to my beer, took another mouthful, and instantly realized something was terribly wrong.

A yellow jacket had been inside the beer bottle. That yellow jacket was now in my mouth. It announced its dissatisfaction with the current situation by stinging me on the lip. I spit it out, but the damage was done.

My lip began to inflate like a hot air balloon.

Marsha immediately got a me towel with ice in it to place on my lip to reduce the swelling. It didn't really work, but I appreciated the gesture. About 30 minutes later, it was time for me to drive back to Birmingham. An hour later, my cell phone rang. It was Marsha. I could hear music and laughter in the background. They (and Ralph too, the swine) were all having a big party.

"Where are you now, Steve?" Marsha asked compassionately.

"My car just arrived at the Georgia state line," I replied. "My lip crossed the line two minutes earlier."

But It's Not All About Me

Yellow jackets are a bane to many people, but particularly in the fall. These bug-eating carnivores find food harder to come by then. So they seek out sweets, like soft drinks, sliced watermelon, and beer, and proceed to make consuming them outside nearly impossible for us. That swarm in the top photo is dining on a fruit roll-up. (Thanks for the cool photo, brenbot.)

About a half-inch long and decorated with yellow and black bands, these wasps make up for in bad attitude what they lack in size. They sting with little provocation and, unlike bees that can sting only once, yellow jackets can sting again and again, along with all of their vindictive yellow jacket buddies.

How to Safely Kill Yellow Jackets


Yellow jackets make underground nests with an entrance hole to the surface. They also nest between rocks. A steady zoom of wasps to and from the nest betrays its presence. Disturb them and they'll sting you. Follow my instructions (as my faithful reader, Jean, recently did) and the yellow jackets will be history.

So here's what to do.

1. Locate the entrance hole or opening to the nest.

2. Buy wasp & hornet killer in a jet-spray can like the one you see here. It will allow you to spray the nest from at least 10 feet away.

3. Plan your assault for either dusk or just before dawn. The insects will all be inside the nest then and less aggressive. Spraying on a cool morning is even better, because chilled yellow jackets are sluggish and not prone to fly.

4. Before spraying the nest, test your aim by spraying briefly at something else. You want this operation to go smoothly.

5. Very slowly sneak up to the nest, put the crosshairs on the opening, lock and load, and LET 'ER RIP!!!! Empty the whole can if you're so inclined. The spray instantly kills yellow jackets, even knocking them out of the air. OORAH!!! Take no prisoners.

Uncle Grumpy's Cure for Bee Stings

I know a lot of you probably treat wasp and bee stings by plastering moist wads of chewing tobacco on them, but despite appearances, my family does not chew. However, here's something that worked recently when a yellow jacket stung Judy on the neck. I got a cotton cloth, dipped a portion of it in a little Clorox, and applied it to the sting. Within 5 minutes, the swelling reduced dramatically and the pain went away.

Of course, this is not a good idea if you get stung on the lip. My advice -- never leave your beer alone.