Bees vs. Yellow Jackets

finn21May 29, 2007

Any way to control yellow jackets without harming bees? The yellow jackets love to come drink out of my pond.

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cnetter(z5 Co)

I find the yellow jacket nest (usually in a low nook in the wall or near the ground) and spray an entire can of Raid or the equivalent into it at night when they are quiet and still.

I usually get the narrow wasted paper wasp drinking at my ponds - they entirely ignore me. I only got stung by a wasp when it got inside the back of my shirt last year.
Initially I confused the wasp sting with nerve pain.

But yellow jacket stings - those are nasty! Our reactions are so bad, we keep an epipen handy.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2007 at 10:47AM
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Skybird - z5, Denver, Colorado

Hi Finn,

I use the wasp spray like Cnetter. And I used to use the whole can when I first used itÂÂcause I was so freakedÂbut that stuff really packs a wallop, and now that IÂve learned how well and how quickly it works, I just use as much as it takesÂand itÂs cheaper! This is the time of year for them to be building their nests, so watch for them in any tiny cornersÂusually up under the eaves of the house or a shedÂor in a shed. One time I did find them starting to build a nest in one of my junipers, and, believe it or not, one time I found them building a nest in one of the tail lights of a car I hardly ever used that had a tiny hole in the tail light! If you see them around, sometimes you can watch and follow them back to the nest. I, too, spray in the evening or anytime itÂs cool when theyÂre less active. And if you spray the nest, donÂt knock it down for a day or two because the spray is residual and will kill any that come back to the nest later. The wasp & hornet spray wonÂt harm the bees at allÂunless they happen to be flying by when you sprayÂbut IÂve never had that happen. (And it shoots like 20' up, to get them high up!)

And IÂm allergic too! Used to carry an epi-pen but donÂt anymore. One time when I got stung by a bee when I was working at the garden center I totally freaked out, grabbed my epi-pen and some ice, sat down holding the ice directly on the sting, and waited to start having trouble breathing. It didnÂt happen, and after a good 5 minutes, I became convinced I wasnÂt going to go into anaphylactic shock and die, so I just kept the ice directly on the sting and learned thatÂfor meÂdoing that dissipates the toxin slowly enough that I donÂt have much of a reaction. As a kidÂbarefootÂI always stepped on several bees each summer and just ran the cold hose water over my foot for 10 minutes, then for a bunch of years I wasnÂt stung, and when I once again stepped on a bee, maybe 10 years later, it didnÂt "go away," and by the next morning my leg was totally swollen all the way up to my hipÂand it itched the whole way upÂfrom the inside out. IÂve been told by doctors that that sort of a reaction doesnÂt usually evolve into an anaphylactic reaction, but IÂve never quite been able to convince myself thatÂs true, and every time IÂm stung I still freak out! So far the iceÂwhich I keep on it for more than 12 hoursÂhas worked.

Good luck! I hope youÂre able to find the nest,

    Bookmark   May 29, 2007 at 11:48AM
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I cannot spray them with Raid. It effects me as much as it does them. I usually take a jar and relocate any trespassers. As long as they see light, they really don't get spooked. My kids have even learned to relocate the wasps. I have only been stung one time by a wasp and that was my fault. It was trapped and I did not see it. I used the old wives trick and put mud on the sting. As the mud dried, it drew out the poison and helped with the itching. For large nests, I would recommend a relocation company. I have only seen them build where the location is not visited regularly, ie storage sheds, attics, corners of the barn. Once an area starts to get traffic, they tend to move on. But that is me.


    Bookmark   May 29, 2007 at 1:20PM
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david52 Zone 6

For insect stings/bites, keep a jug of household ammonia around, and if you get stung/bit, quickly soak a hankie in straight household ammonia and hold it on the bite/sting. Somehow, it destroys the venom and/or what makes it itch.

This really works, several times a summer my kids get stung by wasps or bees, and I can put a stop to the crying in a few seconds.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2007 at 1:43PM
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Skybird - z5, Denver, Colorado

Ammonia works for mosquito bites too (and ant bites)! But you need to get them right away. I just cut a small piece of paper towel, fold it in fourths or sixths, saturate it with ammonia, and stick it or hold it on the bite. I hadn't thought about it for bee stings, and since I'm allergic to hymenoptera, I don't know that it would work for bee stings--at least not without the ice too--but I might add it under the ice next time I get stung.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2007 at 1:54PM
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Okay, Finn, you are asking about control of yellow jackets without harming honey bees. Please note that yellow jackets prey on honey bees, and they rob honey: "They can become a major stress around weak honey bee colonies that cannot protect their food stores."

The traps that use sugar water would lure honey bees. But, you can also make homemade traps with meat: "Raw bologna has proven to be a very successful yellow jacket bait and it does not attract beneficial insects. . . .A crude yellow jacket trap is made by hanging a raw fish or piece of liver (slightly diced on the exterior) by string about 1 to 2 inches above a container of detergent and water. The detergent will act as a wetting agent and eliminate surface tension which will improve trap efficiency. Foraging yellow jackets are attracted to the raw meat and will often become overloaded with food and fall into the water and drown."

This is the technique we used when I was a kid except we'd just nail the container to a post, cut the nail head off, and skewer a piece of bacon (usually) with the nail. The cans could be dumped every day and bait refreshed. Never once saw a honey bee in the soapy water.


Here is a link that might be useful: Yellow Jackets - Clemson University Coop Ext

    Bookmark   May 29, 2007 at 9:45PM
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emagineer(z5 CO)

Digit..Would your idea eventually make them go away to someplace else? Like far away? Everyday is a big job.

Also, do these guys care where they nest? Sun or shade? I had them nesting in my shake roof last year (roofers spent more time running than roofing) which is now stacked in back for firewood. But the wood pile location is under a huge pine tree in the shade. Son said this is a big problem as he is sure they are probably back making nests in the woood pile.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2007 at 5:15AM
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The traps will never make them go away and finding the nests would be best, by far. Using traps around the perimeter of the yard just shields the human living space. Dumping the containers is pretty easy if you travel with 2 buckets, one for dead bees, one for refilling containers.

Shakes can be a huge problem for roofers. I was pointing out all the wasps on his roof to a neighbor one year. He must have decided then and there that it was just the right moment to have the roof redone. I felt very sorry for the workers. They had to quit after the 1st day and bring in the insecticide.

I would "prowl" around that wood pile a couple times each week, Sandy, looking for nests. If you move slowly, they will usually leave you alone unless you're almost standing on their nest. Easy for me to say, I suppose, but DW claims that 2 stings would probably kill me since I react rather strongly. Fortunately, that's never happened. Antihistamine (oral and cream), an aspirin, and a nap - continued treatment with the antihistamines over a couple days - I'm as right as rain.

I've lived where there were lots of yellow jackets before moving to town. Good cabbage looper control in the garden during the killer bee years.

Yes, locating the nest and then can attack at 10 paces is the best remedy. Effectiveness is an indication of the knock-down power of pyrethroids. I like the foam - spray like crazy for about 5 seconds then walk directly away. If you see or hear a bee - keep walking. (County line isn't too far. ;o) Return with great caution and reengage.


Here is a link that might be useful: pyrethroids

    Bookmark   May 30, 2007 at 10:09AM
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cnetter(z5 Co)

I find traps actually attract yellow jackets to my yard, even though it kills some. So, what you do is encourage your neighbors to put up traps. My neighbors did this and it helped keep the yellow jackeys away a bit. :-)

This year there seems to be an awful lot of queens searching for nesting places. I really loath yellow jackets (which are so very different from wasps). Wasps rarely bother me and bees never do, so I don't do anything about either of them, but yellow jackets have stung everyone here, including the dogs (in the eye!), cats, kids and chickens!

    Bookmark   May 30, 2007 at 10:47AM
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Yeah, the bees never bother me. They are great. Right now they are just covering my 'May Night' Salvia. Wasps are fine I suppose...except they seem curious (or stupid) and they just fly all around me and right at me. It freaks me out a bit but they don't seem malicious. The Yellow Jackets don't seem all that interested in me but I know how nasty they can be. Plus, they are always down tucked between rocks and I don't see them until the last second.

On the pond forum, people are saying that the Yellow Jacket traps (like from Home Depot) don't kill bees (or at least bees seem to learn not to go into them). Anyone believe that?

I'd love to go around and find nests but I think they are coming over from neighbors' yards, so don't know if there is much I can do there. Except encourage the neighbors to trap 'em. My neighbor behind me had a trap up until this weekend...when his house burned down...but that's another story!

Thanks everyone!

    Bookmark   May 30, 2007 at 12:40PM
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If you are seeing a lot of yellow jackets right now, Finn, you may be in trouble. HereÂs what Wikipedia has to say:

"Colonies are annual with only inseminated queens overwintering . . . Queens emerge during the warm days of late April or early May, select a nest site and build a small paper nest . . . By mid-June, the first adult workers emerge . . . The colony then expands rapidly reaching a maximum size of 4,000 to 5,000 workers and a nest of 10,000 to 15,000 cells in August and late September."

Wikipedia also says that the adults (workers and queens) are not eating meat but simply carrying it back to the nest. This explains why they load up so much  IÂve often seen them carry honey bees off. When they try that with a piece of bacon, they get overloaded and drop into the soapy water.

The adults eat sugary foods. Weirdly, they get the "sugary food" from the larva early in the season. So, their interest is primarily in meat. Then, "in late autumn, foraging workers (nuisance scavengers) change their food preference from meats to ripe, decaying fruits since larvae in the nest fail to meet requirements as a source of sugar."

Seems like that would be an argument against the effectiveness of using sugar in traps during the Summer.


    Bookmark   May 30, 2007 at 4:46PM
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jchaber(4 CO)

Hmmm, this subject is nearing the time when I should probably have already done something about our yellow jackets!!

We bought one of those hormone (or is it pheromone?) traps but the instructions say to place it far off the property. Well, our property slopes way down to the creek and I'm not sure how to arrange it and all.

We have thought about spraying, but the location is not accessible, mainly due to the fact that they are in an eave well above the slope.

We are thinking of hiring someone who knows what they are doing, but I like to try things myself...

I guess the fact that they always get inside, they hurt! and the fact that the nest is wayyyyy out of reach makes me think I should just pay someone.

gee, spring and summer are grand, bugs are a delight, but biters! get them out!

    Bookmark   May 30, 2007 at 5:30PM
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emagineer(z5 CO)

So, are you guys saying the traps at HD work? Or the spray?
We must have used a dozen cans of spray for the roofers when removing the shingles. This was in Aug.

The yellow jackets are around again, I've seen a couple and have one trap up. But haven't hunted them down and to be honest, this isn't what I want to do.

Interesting that this is the time of year for nesting to begin though. Do they like hot sunny places or shady moist? I'm still thinking about that wood pile and warnings from my son.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2007 at 8:07PM
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Sandy, shady or sunny, hmmm? Well, I've seen yellow jacket nests in both places in the same yard. They really love this south-facing board fence which totally cooks every day. I know this because I walk along that fence cutting flowers. I'm completely confused there because it can get so hot, I'm trying not damage any delicate blooms, and NOT be stung. Only happened once in 12 years but that was enuf.

Meanwhile, they are on the northside of a house. Clinging to the eave was a HUGE nest. Might have been the largest I've ever seen. This is NOT my house or yard and I didn't even notice the nest until the tenant pointed it out to me. He did nothing about it . . . ?

Additionally, yellow jackets are sometimes in the ground. I was once the responsible parent for 2 little boys who stepped on a hive at the corner of a picnic area. I didn't even know it was there but the boys let me know about it. The only thing I had was sunburn spray and repeated spraying took care of the pain for the rest of the day - happily.

They aren't nearly as attractive but they've got that Greta Garbo attitude, "I want to be alone." I think that's all that determines where the nests are built but, at the very least, I doubt that they would go for wet conditions.


    Bookmark   May 30, 2007 at 9:01PM
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If you have small children, I'll warn you about another of their favorite nesting spots. In the tubes of swingsets. The nests can get really large in those things before you realize they're in there.

I sprayed some of the foamy stuff just as they were returning to the nest. They then dragged it deep into the nest as they went in for the evening. Still, I think it took a few days of treatment to get them all. That time, I learned that if you don't kill them all, they carry the dead and dump them out (little pile on the ground the next morning).

    Bookmark   May 30, 2007 at 9:14PM
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emagineer(z5 CO)

Wet and moist will keep them out of my wood pile...hopefully. I need to keep an eye out for where they are nesting again, maybe it is in the neighbor's old shake roof.

A yellow jacket story...if you want to spend the time reading.
My husband was riding his horse around the back forty and I was shooting some pics, one of him and horse on a hill. All at once he and the horse were jumping around, stupid stuff, nothing of beauty. I started laughing, the dog started running all over, husband's hat is flying in the air, he's off the horse on the ground, the horse is "gone", I'm still laughing. Then, I'm totally covered by yellow jackets (as is the dog and of course my husband and horse) which started the whole chaos. All of us were rolling on the ground, batting at our bodies and finally escaped to the house with the bees following. I don't know what the neighbors thought was going on, or if they even saw what was going on. We must have looked like raging idiots. Thankfully we were not alergic or could have died, we had so many bumps from bites they were inside our hair and clothing...even the dog and horse had them all over. My husband's grand idea was filling the hill's hole (where the nest was) with gasoline and lighting it. This was a lost cause at first, took 3 tries with him running as fast as the fire to get out of there. He just made them mad until they got the idea he wasn't quitting. I have no clue where he got the gasoline idea, but know I wouldn't suggest it. And still have the pics of him and the horse on that hill. Camera never got the upset though.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2007 at 8:48AM
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Okay, I really don't know about getting rid of the ones nesting on a wall or in the rafters, but the best thing I heard about the ground holes is if you cover the hole with a clear glass bowl or the like, they will starve to death. They can see the daylight, but not get to it so they will not dig a new tunnel. If you cover the hole any other way, they will dig a new exit tunnel. Maybe some of you emagineering types can use that info for something that may help.


    Bookmark   May 31, 2007 at 1:18PM
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    Bookmark   August 6, 2009 at 3:31AM
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I'd like to see it!! Yes, please post a photo.

Also, if you cannot find out what it is, there is a site called "Whats that Bug?". You might try sending a photo there or taking a look at the site.

They could be hornets which have an oddly spiraled nest. Try googling "hornet nest" and see if the photos look similar.

Actually, it could be fun to do a bunch of google image searches! Try "yellow jacket nest" and "spiral nest" and see what comes up.


    Bookmark   August 6, 2009 at 11:12AM
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irisgirl(Z5 - CO)

We found easiest way to tell the good guys from the bad guys in the Wasp vs Yellow Jacket battle is to find where they live. Yellow Jackets live almost exclusively in the ground (my rock garden!). Wasps live higher up (eaves, trees, etc). Hope this helps.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2009 at 10:57AM
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