Yellow jacket nest in herbs

leigh_va(z6b/7a)September 22, 2006

In my attempts to clean up my herb bed, I unfortunately came across a yellow jacket nest. Luckily only one sting but 3 days later, my elbow is still swollen, hot, red and itchy. Need to get rid of them but they are directly beneath my rosemary plant so I don't want to kill it off and poison the soil.

My husband has offered to do what needs to be done but I just don't know what that is. I have 3 small children and this is right outside the door so I need to get it taken care of as soon as possible.

I've heard that it is better to take care of things at night. Is that true? Your advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

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I'm no expert, but I do have a fair amount of experience with these guys.

In your situation I would probably try to smother them out. Rather than go at them in a direct assault, I would get something that they can't chew through (metal window screen would be ideal), and at night CAREFULLY lay it over the opening and surrounding foot or two (the more the better). Weight it down COMPLETELY so no way they can get out.

Most nests only have one opening, and while they can dig (obviously) I have never had them dig a couple of feet sideways. With no escape the nest will disappear, with no risk to your children.

No guarentees, but also no harm to try this approach.

    Bookmark   September 22, 2006 at 11:35AM
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Thanks for your response. While it sounds good on paper, there is no way to get something flat to the ground around it. It is in the middle of my herb bed, 5 inches from the base of my rosemary plant and surrounded by dead stems (which is why I was cleaning up the area) and live stems of oregano, tyme, mint and such. I could drop a cement block over it, I think (or that would be my husband who would do that). It would probably be heavy enough to weigh down the stems enough to eliminate an easy escape.

I've heard boiling water would do it. Still open to other solutions that will not kill the rosemary bush (I think the oregano and mint can survive anything) and not poison the soil so much that the herbs grown there will be unedible.

Thanks again for you response.

    Bookmark   September 22, 2006 at 12:03PM
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I haven't tried it, but I've heard of folks placing clear glass bowls over the entrance to the nest. The idea is that the YJs can't figure out what the glass is and keep trying to fly through it...eventually starving/exhausting themselves to death. Night time is best and the bowl should be well sealed against the the bowl down slightly and then throw some soil around the edges.

If you try this let us know how it works out!


    Bookmark   September 22, 2006 at 12:21PM
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We have wasps or a touch larger insects that look the same that we call yellow jackets....they have a paper nest here in TX. I don't know what you are looking at specifically, but a good nozzle attached to the water hose to knock them off the nest and then pull the nest off the plant with a hoe. No house, no wasps, unless they try to rebuild. You just have to have a steel resolve and a good aim with the nozzle if they come your way. Happy hunting.

    Bookmark   September 22, 2006 at 6:01PM
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end3, yellowjackets, from what I know, only build their nests in the ground. The entrance being an easily overlooked hole going into the ground with the paper nest structure totally out of sight below ground.

You've never seen anybody dance like somebody who unfortunately has stood over a yellowjacket nest and found yellowjackets entering his/her pants leg!!!!


    Bookmark   September 22, 2006 at 7:16PM
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There probably is little reason to do much now since those buggers will be dying off for the winter soon anyway, and the queens will leaves that nest and find someplace else to build a nest next year. Yellow Jackets do not nest in the same place two years running. The link below is to some products that might help, but these do not get down into the nest where the queen is.

Here is a link that might be useful: Saferbrand Wasp and Hornet Killer

    Bookmark   September 23, 2006 at 6:39AM
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Thanks all. With no safe (for me or the soil) and totally effective way to win this battle I think I will warn everyone and leave them alone and hope that the queen decides to to leave the area next spring. Hopefully, she will not set up housekeeping where I mow or I'll be doing the "yellow jacket dance". I do think setting a clear bowl over the nest and watching them panic might make the swelling and itching in my elbow feel slightly better, I don't think I will have the nerve to get close enough to watch. Thanks for all your insight.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2006 at 1:46PM
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jean001(z8aPortland, OR)

You wrote: "With no safe (for me or the soil) and totally effective way to win this battle I think I will warn everyone and leave them alone and hope that the queen decides to to leave the area next spring."

As was preniously said, leaving them be is totally safe as long as you avoid the area until late in the year -- the colony members will die, the mated queens will spend the winter elsewhere, then the in the spring, the surviving queens will nest elsewhere, perehaps at your place, perhaps elsewhere.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2006 at 2:36PM
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Be sure that your warnings will work, especially with young children. I have read that this late in the season we are talking about nests of 5,000 or so. My understanding is that fall is when they are most dangerous because nests are so large and they are agressively looking for food. Last I read, most "bee-sting related deaths" are due to yellow jackets. Adults succumb to the venom from aggressive yellowjackets, and children are even more vulnerable.

You might want to consider an option that worked for me -- flooding them out. I found the nest smack dab in the tomato plants I wanted to harvest.

For two weeks I put the hose in the hole every night (from a safe distance of 15 feet or so) and turned the cold water on for 30 minutes. My understanding is that this method worked because it drowned the wasps inside and by keeping the ground wet the nest eventually fell in on itself.

Eventually the few yellow-jackets that survived stopped trying to fly back in to what was left and went away. As long as I saw any I "watered." Am happy to report that none seem to have lived and I am happily harvesting tomatoes.

There are people who collect yellowjackets for labs, where the venom is extracted. They will remove the nest with a vacuum. That's another option.

    Bookmark   September 24, 2006 at 11:52AM
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When you search the internet you will get information that anywhere between 50 and 500 people, in the USA, die from reaction to Yellow Jacket stings. However, if you look closely at the data you will find that the higher numbers refer to deaths from anaphlatic shock which has many causes, and the vast majority of those are because the victims were not properly diagnosed. Most people are far too afraid of these wee buggers, needlessly, and more people have reactions to Fire Ants than these wasps. So long as you do not disturb them they will leave you alone, but if you do disturb them they will release a pheromone that alerts others that one is under attack and those also respond and attack this perceived problem, you.
Does flooding the nest really kill them off? Most likely not since these wasps have learned over eons how to build nests that will not be affected by flooding, if they had not they would not be here today.

    Bookmark   September 25, 2006 at 6:45AM
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The mention of drowning the yj's and mention of fireants reminds me of something I've witnessed in the past.

On occasion I've had the opportunity to fish a couple of ponds that had recently been exposed to substantial rains after a drought. These ponds had been "below level" for a long enough time to allow fireants to build beds around the shoreline. When the rains came and the water level went up the fireant nests were flooded.

Did the fireants drown? Nope. What we found were floating mounds of thousands and thousands of fireants holding on to each other as they floated on the surface of the ponds. Some of these mounds would be a foot and a half in diameter and six or seven inches tall. We kept our eyes on these floating mounds as we fished from a johnboat, but once or twice we dropped our guard and let a small mound bump into the boat...instant (silent) BOARDING PARTY!!!

Seeing those "floating mounds" was very creepy...especially after experiencing how quickly they would swarm onto anything they bumped in to.


    Bookmark   September 25, 2006 at 7:40PM
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marylandmojo(zone 7--Md.)

leigh; As I post this long after your post, I'm assuming (and hoping) you and your family are all still alive, and not stung to death. To answer your original question, it IS better to deal with them at night, when they're all in the hive. Doing anything to the nest in the daytime, while many are out foraging, just seems to P.O. the foragers when they return and find you screwing with their nest. :=) And, they hang around (sometimes for weeks) wondering where it all went wrong. If you've only used boiling water, or some similar non-toxic liquid, they regroup and recover, generally, and tend to their young who have not been adversely affected. (New nest a-formin'.) Of course that doesn't mean you should dump gasoline down the hole and light it with a match--the way most farmers take care of Yellow Jacket nests--particularly when the nest is among your food crops. But as far as the Rosemary plant goes, I'd forget it; compared to dying a horrible death from multiple Yellow Jacket stings, losing a Rosemary plant seems insignificant. Got any moonshine? A friend of mine in Kentucky kills them with corn squeezin's--sometimes setting it afire, sometimes not (depends if the "shine" has rendered him incapable of striking a match).

    Bookmark   October 4, 2006 at 10:58PM
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Have lots of yellow jackets here and pyrethrum/rotenone mix works well. Best to do it at night with a light shining from a different spot than where you are. I've also done it during the day and as long as the sprayer has pressure it knocks them down faster than they can get out. There are also some products that freeze them. So there are some "organic" choices you can use. But I'd put my families safety ahead of the big O mind set. Tom

    Bookmark   October 5, 2006 at 11:03AM
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