What You Need To Know About Yellow Jackets

Kill those stinking yellow jackets!


Yellow jackets are a bane to many people, particularly in the fall. These bug-eating carnivores find food harder to come by during this season. So they will seek out anything sweet we may leave around—like soft drinks, sliced watermelon, beer, or various sweet Southern treats. Yellow jackets make it nearly impossible for us to enjoy consuming our sweets outdoors without being hounded, or even attacked, by them. The swarm you see in the above photo is dining on a Fruit Roll-Up.

Identifying Yellow Jackets

Yellow jackets are actually a type of wasp, hailing from the genera Vespula and Dolichovespula. Often, they are mistaken for other types of wasps—like hornets, which have larger heads. They are even sometimes mistaken for bees, given their similar size and color. Measuring about a half-inch long and adorned with alternating yellow and black bands and long dark wings, these wasps make up for their tiny size with a big, bad attitude.

All female yellow jackets are able to sting, and they will sting with little provocation. Yellow jacket stingers are lance-like and have small barbs. Its venom is typically only dangerous to people who are allergic to yellow jackets or to those who get stung many times. Unlike bees, which can sting only once, yellow jackets can sting again and again, along with any vindictive buddies they might be swarming with. But we are not completely defenseless against yellow jacket fury. It is possible to kill them.

How to Safely Kill Yellow Jackets

Yellow jackets typically make underground nests with an entrance hole to the surface. They sometimes also nest between rocks, in trees and shrubs, or within man-made structures and cavities. They like secluded areas. A steady zoom of wasps to and from the nest will betray its presence. Disturb them and they'll sting you. Follow my instructions to properly neutralize a yellow jacket nest.

Here's what to do.

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

2. Buy a wasp and hornet killer in a jet-spray can. It will allow you to spray the nest from at least 20 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 spray. Empty the whole can if you're so inclined. The spray instantly kills yellow jackets, even knocking them out of the air.

Remedies for Yellow Jacket Stings

Yellow jacket stingers pierces the skin and inject a poisonous venom, causing sudden pain and other subsequent reactions. Experiencing redness, swelling, and inflammation around the stung area a few hours later is common. So is feeling fatigued and itchy. Many people still treat wasp and bee stings by plastering moist wads of chewing tobacco on them. However, here's something that worked recently when a yellow jacket stung a friend on the neck. I got a cotton cloth, dipped a portion of it in a little Clorox, and applied it to the sting. Within five minutes, the swelling reduced dramatically and the pain went away. Yellow jacket stings can also be treated with ice or a cold pack to address the pain, antihistamine for the swelling, and vinegar to reduce itching.

These are for the more common symptoms and can be treated with home remedies. However, according to Healthline, emergency medical attention should be sought if any of the following symptoms occur, as it is likely a serious allergic reaction: coughing or wheezing, problems breathing or swallowing, or having tightness in your throat; changes to your skin, such as breaking out into hives; feeling lightheaded or dizzy, or passing out; and vomiting or diarrhea.

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