Confused about yellow jackets

weddingdance(z7 MD)July 25, 2005

I've spent a good deal of time reading the archives here, and now am more confused than ever!

I have a hive of jellow jackets living near my front house foundation. Looks like an old mouse hole that they took over.

They bounce off me when I water flowers near them, but they've never stung me.

100 feet away, around the back of my house, is my vegetable garden. Every morning when I go out to check it or water it, there are two or three yellow jackets in each squash flower, lying very still way in deep. So I thought they were pollinating, and didn't want to destroy the hive out front (although I am concerned they will sting one of my students one day).

Then I read that they're carnivors (!) and not pollintors. What the heck are they doing sleeping in my squash flowers then? Should I smother the hive entrance, and risk incurring the wrath of the survivors? Will the underground hive keep getting bigger and bigger every year? Or will they die off after a frost? I don't think it gets very cold here in Maryland, not like New England did anyway.

Thanks for any advice,

Lee Ann

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chuckr30(z5, GR-MI)

There are bees that look like YJs, and there are other types of wasps that look like YJs. The YJs in the flowers may not be the same ones that live in the papery hive.

Look at the link below to see some pics on wasps. It is hard to ID wasps since many look alike.

Here is a link that might be useful: Bugguide wasps

    Bookmark   July 26, 2005 at 11:42AM
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orcuttnyc(z5-6 NY)

Wait till dark, pour a cup of gasoline or kerosine down the hole. That'll disolve and kill the hive. I'm sure they have their role to live in my little patch of nature, but...when they attack me in my garden, it's time for them to go. I've found, that they are prolific, there will be a new nest some wheres else. And..they keep on stinging and stinging you.
I don't believe honey bees nest in old mouse holes.
I was stung two weeks ago. First time since I was twelve. Hurts like the beejesus. I'm fortunate i'm not allergic. Had two more yellow jackets clinging to my clothing. Not fun. Beware. Gased the hole that eve. If stung enough, you'll have to go to the hospital.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2005 at 9:08AM
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shireguy(8B GA)

Hi Lee Ann,
Honey bees absolutely do not live in the ground but yellow jackets do. The hive will get bigger and bigger every year and other hives will be produced. As Chuck suggests there are a number of insects that mimic yellow jackets so the insects in your squash blossums are probably not yellow jackets. The gas in the hole trick will work and it IS advisable to do it after dark when the wasps are all in the hive. Plugging the hole to keep the fumes in is also a good idea. Good luck!!!

    Bookmark   July 28, 2005 at 2:39PM
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amymcg(z5 MA)

Definitely pour the gas down the hole. Yellow Jackets are agressive and sting, and the stings really hurt. I would take 12 honeybee stings over a wasp or hornet sting any day of the week. They are carnivores, but they are attracted to things that are sweet, like soda. They also like to get in garbage because of the meat and the possibility of sweet stuff.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2005 at 9:59AM
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To use my grandkid's term, I'm not trying to "dis" anyone's ideas here, but I've never been a big fan of pouring gasoline or kerosene anywhere but into a gastank or lantern where it belongs. Pouring gas down a wasp hole will indeed kill many of the wasps, but not immediately, which is why ShireGuy recommends covering the hole to keep the fumes and wasps in the hole until they are dead. Actually, many of the wasps that escape your gas-attack will survive. They usually don't return to the hole (due to the smell I suppose) but those that survive often hang around the hole (I guess they have nowhere else to go), and they are usually agitated (probably because someone killed their nest-mates and ruined their home ;-).

Furthermore, gas or kerosene will leave a heavy concentration of polluting hydrocarbons in the ground at that location, which will then spread. Good luck growing grass, flowers, vegetables there for a while.

My advice would be to buy a can of Raid, Ortho, or other such wasp spray (I just bought a can - $3.79 at Menard's). Make sure you get the actual WASP-HORNET spray made to immediately kill wasps, not just a general "bug-spray." This wasp spray contains a poison that immediately tranquilizes them and kills them within seconds.... and NO, I'm not some whacko providing a "humane" way to killing wasps, I simply like the idea of immediately disabling them so they cannot sting you before they die.

Wait until night when the wasps are in the nest, hold the can down to the hole, and spray away. You shouldn't need the whole can because there is a lot of spray in it, but use enough to do the job. And before someone points it out, yes, I realize spraying the wasp killer also creates a concentration of a poison (pollution), but this spray seems to evaporate rather quickly, and it has never killed my grass or flowers.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2005 at 7:10PM
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I agree that gasoline is a very serious pollutant to the soil -- my son accidentally spilled some gas while filling the lawnmower one day -- the grass never grew in that spot again (we had the house for 7 years). I tried replacing the soil, everything...nothing grew.

However, I'm about to use gasoline as I'm really fearful of this growing colony of yellowjackets we've got in our yard. It's right at the entrance to the house and they're vicious! Fortunatley no one's been stung this year - -but we were last year.

I read online that spraying with CYPERMETHRIN (thru a hose sprayer), then hitting the nest with a mixture of Delta Dust & Drione dust. I am not familiar w/ either of these chemicals & I am hesitant to use anything on my organic yard, but I can't afford for any of us to end up in the hospital either. Anyone have any info/suggestions? (BTW, we've shot the nest with two whole cans of wasp/hornet spray - it did NOTHING - I think they're immune to it).

    Bookmark   July 30, 2006 at 4:30AM
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I've had luck with Raid for Wasps and Hornets which shoots long distance. It says it will shoot 15ft. It has a long, straw like thing which the poison shoots out of. It works, but I've had nests where I've had to call an exterminator because I couldn't get near the nest to shoot it.
I hate them. I try to grow my gardens organically and hate using poison, but these things are really dangerous. My son accidently stepped on a nest and they got up under the legs of his pants and stung the hell out of him. We went crazy trying to get his pants off and we were all stung repeatedly. My son was rushed to the hospital and almost died. His body swelled up so much it cut off his breathing. We were all treated for the stings.
These insects are not to be taken lightly.
Good luck,

    Bookmark   August 7, 2006 at 1:30AM
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Now wait a minute. I thought you were all supposed to be insect people! The original post mentioned a nest in a mouse-hole with yellowjackets or wasps or whatever they are that have never stung the owner. They go in her squash flowers. And then there are response posts giving diabolical methods to exterminate them. Which everyone agrees won't work because they're so prolific and will just get mad and then move to a new nest. Those flying things are probably feasting on HUGE numbers of grubs and caterpillars in the garden, if they're anything like the ones I have. Why exterminate them? THEY HAVEN'T STUNG ANYONE. You know where the nest is. Just mark it with a red flag and tell your kids not to step on it. If you annihilate the bugs and they move their nest, then you're not going to know where they went and you may step on it. It will probably be somewhere near your garden, since that's where their food supply is. I've been stung by them and it does hurt rather impressively, but unless you step directly on their nest they don't swarm you. I always thought the trade-off for a bad sting once in a while (sucking the juice out of the worms on my tomatoes) was worthwhile. Though I hate it when they suck the juice out of the monarch caterpillars.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2006 at 9:23AM
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I'm wondering if they actually are yellow jackets. Have you made a photo id? The only reason I ask is that what you are describing sounds like a type of bumble bee. I understand they will move into ground holes, but what made me really think that is that I always find bumble bees sleeping in my squash flowers.:^) A quick google search turns up a specific mention of this. See link below.

Yellowjackets have always been super aggressive the times I've encountered them and are always eradicated. Paper wasps on the other hand are tolerated and even encouraged. If they are bumblebees, and aren't bothering you I'd say let them 'bee'.

Here is a link that might be useful: bumblebees sleep in squash blossoms

    Bookmark   August 15, 2006 at 11:28AM
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I have been concerned about this too, for years there has ben a silly little band of paper wasps in my garden. Each years crop has never seemed to get bigger, Just enough to keep a lid on some of the bugs the birds dont get. The ONLY time they have ever stung me was when I didnt realize they had moved their nest and grabbed a couple, moving an old tarp, or turning a loose pile of compost. So I have allways left them. But now there is a new type. They do not look the same. this new one looks like yellow jackets, and they
are aggressive!!!! they have bit, not stung me 5 different times this summer, even tho I have been super carefull. the bites were as bad as any sting I have ever recieved, staying swolen and PAINFULL for up to 2 weeks, then leaving a little hole that took a while to heal. no stinger, but a bite. I wish I didnt have a no kill policy in my 100 % organic garden, because for the first time in 20 years hear, I am thinking of cold blooded murder. I love the bumbles, and leave their little nest places, as well as the few dear honneys from my neighbors hives. the question is, how does a hive in a pile of dirt get bigger and bigger, do they hollow it out? its actually in my compost pile, but its a big pain, and I wish I had a humane organic solution. as welll, there are too many benificialls to poison the pile. (Who wants poison compost?) HELP!!!!!!

    Bookmark   August 15, 2006 at 7:53PM
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nva_dad(z7 VA)

zzepherdogg -- you might ask in the compost forum about ways to heat up your pile e.g. with a quantity of manure and straw (altho I'd advise doing this in the middle of the night...), which discourages insects in general while growing the good microbes.

You could try blowing in a dessicant powder (fine silica dust like Drione, which also has pyrethrins, which will at least break down pretty fast in a damp environment) using a small hand bellows placed right in the entry hole (at night!! don't even think about this in the day, not even early AM).

I really empathize with the problem. I love bugs and wasps, but yellowjackets in your doorstep or somewhere else you really have to go, are a real (ow!) pain.

Having said that, we do have winter in zone 7, and I haven't experienced yellowjackets returning to the same nest year after year; the paper wasps do seem to reuse the same spots (and have never stung anyone); the local digger bees and carpenter bees come back of course, since the larvae overwinter there. But the mud dauber and pipe organ wasps, cicada killer wasps, and the yellowjackets, don't seem to favor any particular spot. Sometimes I have them, sometimes I don't.

Just saw a cicada killer this AM, landing on the side of the house, carrying a great big (paralyzed) cicada. Then she scampered up the roofline; not sure where she went.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2006 at 12:45PM
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After reading everyone's stories here, I thought my own yellow jacket experience worth sharing.

I'd read all the bad things that comes from pouring gas or kerosene into the ground, but after several attacks by our little ground-dwelling monsters, I decided to resort to this particular form of chemical warfare. As the nest I was trying to eradicate was located in a slight depression in the middle of my backyard, it was situated perfectly for "pouring". But then... as a small creek borders my yard, I couldn't help keep away thoughts of benzene-disfigured frogs showing up at my doorstep some rainy night in the future. So... feeling guilty and in desperation, I had a vision... of the hot water heater.

I'd heard about the boiling-water-down-the-hole solution, but the stove is a very long way from my backyard. But not the basement door, which is a straight shot of some thirty feet from the nest, and the hot water heater, about ten feet inside the basement door. SO...

During a sunny late afternoon, with the little buggers zipping in and out, I carefully made mental note of the nest's entrance. Then, I rigged a ten foot pole (a couple of sturdy branches taped together with too sticky masking tape, the kind you'll never use again but can't throw away), taped the female end of a long garden hose to just inches over the end of the pole, then taped the rest of the hose securely to the pole.
Then, I sat on the ground and slooowly crept the pole/hose combo along the grass towards the nestÂs entrance, careful to take many rests along the way, giving time for the little critters to adjust to the newby in the neighborhood. Once the end of the hose was just slightly off center above the hole (so as to not block the all-important flight path), I retreated back into the house to wait until the night.

That evening, around nine, I went back to the hole; no guards were in sight, but I didn't lean too far over in case one of them got energetic to attack. I made a mental note of the hose's location, and VERY SLOWLY pulled it away from the hose and away from the depression. I went into the basement, connected the hose to the flush-out valve on the hot water heater, and turned on the water to get the hose heated up for the ultimate event. After a couple of minutes, I shut off the water, and went back to my pole and carefully pushed it back into its original position. I even cheated and used a flashlight to verify that I was in the correct position.

And then I turned the water back on and essentially drained the hot water heater until the brass coupling on the hose was only warm. I expected some buzzing at the back door, but nothing happened. I figured I'd failed, but the next afternoon, upon checking out the nest, was amazed to discover that nary a bee buzzed in and out of the ground. Success!

Now, if I can only figure out a way to get that masking tape off of the hoseÂ

    Bookmark   October 10, 2006 at 2:30PM
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jqpublic(7b/8a Wake County NC)


    Bookmark   July 9, 2007 at 10:49PM
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Anyone with the slightest bit of common sense(I didn't want to use the word moron) will know that it's just plain stupid, wrong, and probably illegal, to pour gasoline into a hole in the ground. What are you thinking? Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't this a bee and beekeeping forum on the Gardenweb sight. Somehow the idea of gardening and polluting the soil we garden doesn't seem very sensible. If you really must kill the bees, a simple garden hose nozzle stuck directly in the hole is all you need. Run the water for 15 minutes or so and block up the hole. Problem solved, bees are dead,ground is well watered. Why use an atomic bomb to slay the giant when a pebble and slingshot will do. Try stopping and thinking about what you are doing or recommending other people to do, and the long term consequences it will have. We don't need big corporations messing up the planet, we have a bunch of individual idiots who are glad to do it. End of Sermon!

    Bookmark   July 10, 2007 at 1:16AM
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castlemaster(Cary, NC 7b)

This post is two years old. I'm sure the problem has long since been resolved.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2007 at 6:09PM
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misspistachio(10 or 11 San Diego County)

Question about the hornets and bees. @ years ago we had a nest inground.I was about 15 ft away using an Ortho sprayer aimed at the nest.It was evening time and I was told they were less agressive at that time.From 15 ft away one of the buggers made a beeline for my face and latched onto my upperlip.I was stung several times before I could get away.I must have slapped myself in the face several times in the process.My face swelled up like a balloon and I had to go to urgent care.I now have the kit for stings.We also used gasoline in the hole by way of funnel and 50 ft garden hose.They didn't return to the hole.

My question is....My peach tree is loaded with fruit this year but I can't get close enough to pick the fruit.There is also a swarm that has taken up residence in the tree.I don't see any nest,just a truckload of hornets and bees.

Any sugestions on getting them out so we can get the fruit???


    Bookmark   July 11, 2007 at 1:13PM
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My answer assumes you mean two different kinds of bees. If you have ripe fruit that has fallen and is being eaten, they shouldn't bother you. My great grandfather had fruit trees and always wanted us to just pick pears from the ground, but we wanted to climb the tree. There were always half eaten pears on the ground with I believe were yellowjackets all over them. They never paid any attention to us. They just wanted to eat. If you have a swarm of bees in the tree, there's a good chance that they are honey bees if they are hanging down in a big cluster. When honey bees first leave the hive in a swarm, they find a nearby place to cluster and will stay anywhere from 20 minutes to a few days while they decide where to take up housekeeping. If there are any local beekeepers, they can help you by catching the swarm and hiving them. Sometimes it's as simple as puting a hive box underneath and giving the branch a sharp shake. The cluster will pretty much fall in the box. If the queen goes in, the others will usually follow.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2007 at 5:20PM
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I have a nest of ground bees close to my pool. They are small and look more like a honeybee than a yellow jacket. I read on a site that you could place a water hose by the opening and the bees would relocate so I did that. Then I read on this site that they would be killed by doing this. So....I felt guilty and went out and moved the hose. I really only want to relocate them, not kill them. They are not bothersome to me and I have placed a wire cage over the hole so others will not step on it but I do have relatives who are allergic. Any ideas other than what I see so far?

    Bookmark   July 3, 2011 at 12:57PM
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