Yellow jacket Vespula spp.
IDENTIFICATION – Ever been buzzed by one of these aggressive insects? Yellow jackets feed on meats and sugars, which makes summer picnics very attractive to them. Hunting workers have black and yellow or white markings on the abdomen. You’ll find them living in paperlike nests either suspended from trees or built underground. Both kinds of nests have a single opening that the workers defend violently.
LIFE CYCLE – The fertilized queen first appears in spring. By the end of summer, a nest may contain a queen and more than 1,000 yellow jackets. The insects are most aggressive in the fall, when an accidental encounter could bring on dozens of stings.
CONTROL – If they’re on your house or around a play area, you’ll want to eliminate them. In a rarely visited corner of your yard, you may choose to leave them alone. Wasp traps with n-heptyl butyrate, available at garden centers, can temporarily keep the insects away from people. To eliminate a nest, spray an aerosol wasp insecticide at dusk, when the insects are less active. Be sure to wear long sleeves and tape around your wrists and ankles to prevent the threatened wasps from getting under your clothes. After a couple of days, when you no longer see activity, remove the nest if it’s above ground. After spraying a ground nest, seal up the opening with soil or a large stone.