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How to Get Rid of Yellow Jackets in 5 Easy Steps

The flying stinging bug known as the Yellow Jacket.
robeo / Getty Images

You hear a buzzing noise near your front door and look around for the source. You find one yellow jacket flying around your yard and think nothing of it. As each day passes, the sound gets progressively louder, and one yellow jacket turns into a large group. At first, avoiding this swarm is the best thing you can do, but now you’re worried they’ll block your way into your home. For a quick solution, use this step-by-step guide on how to get rid of yellow jackets.

What do yellow jackets look like?

An up-close shot of a yellow jacket

Maren Winter / Shutterstock

Yellow jackets are often hard to distinguish from bees and similar insects. Yellow jackets have alternating yellow and black stripes that run horizontally along their smooth bodies. Often much more aggressive than bees, yellow jackets are a ground-nesting wasp that can gather in large groups within minutes.

Yellow jacket stings often hurt significantly more than bee stings and leave behind large red welts. Unlike honeybees, they can sting more than once. If you feel a sharp pain and you see a yellow jacket flying around, leave the area immediately. Yellow jackets are known for leaving behind a pheromone at the site of the sting that attracts other yellow jackets to their target.

How do you get yellow jackets?

Yellow jackets are found in countries worldwide and are most prominent during summer and the early days of fall. Like other insects, yellow jackets are attracted to sugary substances. During the larvae stage, yellow jackets feed on a variety of proteins in the form of small insects brought back to the hive by the adults.

Since yellow jackets nest underground, they’re attracted to properties with open rodent holes and burrows. Combine that with exposed trash nearby, and chances are good that you’ll eventually get a yellow jacket infestation. Because yellow jackets are aggressive, easily provoked, and attack in swarms, they can pose a significant threat to anyone on the property.

How to check for yellow jackets

You likely won’t know you have a yellow jacket problem until you see them flying around your property. While they’re similar in color to bees, the shape and visible body texture is an easy way to tell them apart. Yellow jackets are smaller, have a slimmer waist, and smooth texture, and they’ll most likely congregate around open trash cans, outdoor restaurants, and other places where sugary substances are easily accessible.

Before you start to get rid of yellow jackets, you’ll need to determine where their food source is and potential locations for hives. All yellow jackets use the same flight path back and forth, making it easy to track the source. Follow them at a safe distance as they fly around your property until they reach the hive. Once you’ve found the hive, check other areas of your front and back yard, and around the perimeter of your home for additional hiding places.

How long can yellow jacket infestations last?

Yellow jacket infestations last for the duration of the summer season. Once the season is up, the queen will fly to another location to make a new hive. The vast majority of yellow jackets left behind will die at the end of the season, and hives are never reused.

How to get rid of yellow jackets step by step

Once you’ve found a hive, move quickly to eradicate the problem. Even though yellow jacket infestations are temporary, they can be a real nuisance and potentially dangerous if someone develops an allergic reaction to their sting. Learn how to kill yellow jackets with the following steps.

Step 1: Select your yellow jacket treatment

There are numerous products available for purchase that you can use to get rid of yellow jackets. The most common include sprays, traps, and baits.

Step 2: Find the nest

Finding the nest is essential to eradicating a yellow jacket infestation. Before venturing out, put on a long-sleeve shirt, pants, a mask, and protective eyewear. As you follow the yellow jacket around your property, listen for loud buzzing noises that could indicate the location of the nest.

Step 3: Find the entry and exit points

Since yellow jackets live underground in animal burrows, you’ll need to locate both the entry point and exit point of the nest. Do this by looking for holes in the ground that are closely guarded by a few yellow jackets hovering nearby.

Step 4: Apply the treatment

Once you’ve located the nest, wait until dusk or just before sunrise to apply the treatment. This makes it harder for the yellow jackets to find and sting you. While there are a number of treatments available, an aerosol spray is safest for homeowners. The product should feature a long-range spray that allows you to stand back from the hole. Make sure to spray both the entrance and exit holes of the nest for at least one minute each, moving in circular motions and covering as much of the interior nest walls as possible. If any yellow jackets escape, spray them directly before they can fly away.

Step 5: Check the nest for activity

After treating the nest, wait 24 hours, and check for additional yellow jacket activity. Apply treatment again if needed.

Products you can use to treat yellow jacket infestations

  • Ortho Home Defense Hornet & Wasp Killer. When using this guide on how to get rid of yellow jackets, this aerosol spray will allow you to keep a safe distance of up to 20 feet.
  • RESCUE! Reusable Yellow Jacket Trap. This trap lures yellow jackets with a special non-toxic chemical. Once inside, the yellow jackets die from dehydration.
  • RESCUE! Disposable Yellow Jacket Trap. This yellow jacket trap is effective for luring all types of yellow jacket species and then drowning them in a nontoxic liquid.
  • Bonide 363 Spider and Ground Bee Killer. This product helps kill and prevent further infestations. Apply it to the exterior of your home, dark corners, and holes as needed.

Don’t want to use chemical cleaners? Here’s how to get rid of yellow jackets naturally

If you don’t want to use chemicals on your property, natural home remedies can be just as effective if you’ve got the supplies in your home.

Place glass bowls on both the entrance and exit holes of the hive. This will trap the yellow jackets inside, leaving them to starve to death. Dry ice can also be an effective and swift killer of yellow jackets when you dump it into the nest and cover both holes with dirt.

If you decide to use either option, make sure to wear protective clothing and gloves.

When to call a professional exterminator to treat yellow jackets

Not all yellow jacket hives can be eradicated with DIY products. If the hive is too big or you’re unable to reach it with a spray from a safe distance, calling a professional exterminator might be your best option.

Yellow jacket hives can be difficult to find if they’re located in bushes or up trees. If you’ve already eliminated one hive but still notice yellow jackets flying around your property, call a professional to finish the job.

How to keep yellow jackets out of your home

The best way to prevent yellow jackets from returning to your home is by filling any visible holes in your yard. If your trash cans are stored outside, make sure they’re covered at all times. Investing in a yellow jacket deterrent is advisable if infestations are a constant problem in your area.

The bottom line on yellow jackets

Yellow jackets are not only a nuisance, but they can be potentially fatal to those who are allergic to their stings. A good way to prevent yearly infestations is to check regularly for animal burrows, fill them when necessary, and cover your trash cans at all times. If you discover a nest, take care of it quickly before the problem gets worse.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I prevent stings?

The best way to prevent stings is to avoid yellow jackets as much as possible. If you must interact with them, always wear protective clothing and never use perfume or lotion.

What should I do if I get stung?

Yellow jackets often leave behind a chemical that may attract other hive dwellers. If you get stung, leave the area immediately and do not swat at the insects. If you’ve been stung more than ten times or in the throat or mouth, or you experience difficulty breathing, seek medical attention immediately. To ease the pain, apply a mixture of baking soda and water, a freshly cut onion, or toothpaste to the infected area.

Should I ever leave a yellow jacket nest alone?

Yellow jackets play an important part in the local ecosystem because they prey on smaller insects. Unless the nest presents a threat, leave the yellow jackets alone to complete their life cycle.


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