I have received more phone calls related to yellow jackets in the past two weeks than I have in my entire career.
Why so many yellow jackets this year? My answer is simple, I don’t know.
I talked to Dr. Nancy Hinkle, University of Georgia Entomologist, and her answer was the same as mine.
Could it be because of a mild winter and dry spring?
Maybe, but only the yellow jackets really know the answer.
The next question is how to control yellow jackets? The key is to find and treat their nest.
The yellow jacket colony’s life begins in April or May when the queen establishes the nest.
Normally, the yellow jacket nest is located in a cavity in the ground or hollow tree. However, their nest may be found in other places such as brush piles,
sheds, under porches and cross tie walls.
Nests are constructed of layers of tiny bits of wood fiber chewed into a paper-like pulp. A nest may have thousands of bees that are very protective of their home.
A yellow jacket can sting more than once, and there have been many cases of people being stung a large number of times while unknowingly stepping near a yellow jacket nest.
Understanding the diet of the yellow jacket may be helpful for successful control.
Their diet consists of foods rich in sugar and carbohydrates such as fruit and nectar. Foraging yellow jackets search for protein such as other insects.
When their normal foods are in short supply, yellow jackets are also seen going after manmade foods found at a picnic.
Clean up any outside spills of beverages and foods. Make sure all garbage can lids are secured tightly. Do no leave pet food outside during the day.
If you find the nest, be careful. If the nest is located in an out-of-the-way place where humans and pets do not go, you may want to allow cold weather to freeze the colony. In most cases, a nest will live only one year.
If you decide to kill an underground nest, wait until night when all the yellow jackets are inside the nest. Yellow jackets are attracted to light; so, if possible, do not hold a flashlight while applying an insecticide to the nest. Speaking of insecticides, Sevin 5 percent dust does a good job of killing yellow jackets if poured onto the entrance of the nest.
There are several types of yellow jacket traps on the market. Traps will help, but do not expect complete control. Since traps will attract yellow jackets, place them away from areas humans or pets may be.
Most of my yellow jacket calls are related to the insect flying by the hundreds over lawns. The sad news is there is not an insecticide that can simply be sprayed on a lawn for yellow jacket control.
By taking steps such as controlling nests, using traps and reducing their food supply, such as open trash cans and pet food, yellow jackets can be reduced to an acceptable level.
If you have questions related to insects, you may want to attend a free educational program, “Controlling Insects Which Bite and Sting.”
The program will be held by the University of Georgia Extension at 2:30 p.m., Aug. 5 in the gym at Rock Creek Park on Hwy. 9 South.
For more information, call the Dawson County Extension Office at (706) 265-2442.