Monday, June 26, 2017

It’s Time to Arm Yourself Against Yellow Jackets - An Update By Joyce D’Agostino

Photo courtesy CSU 
Update: Recently I assisted another Master Garden at an information table at a public event. One of the people attending the event stopped by our table and saw materials about bees. She stated that she didn’t like bees and wanted none of them in her garden. One of her friends told her she was very mistaken, we all need bees to help with pollinating our gardens. This person insisted that the “bees” were very bothersome and she was concerned she could get stung. After talking with her for a few moments and asking her to describe what she was seeing, her description matched the Western Yellowjacket. Despite me telling her it wasn’t a bee, she still felt that it was part of the “bee family” and she wanted no part of any bees around her garden.
It may explain why people do mistake these aggressive hornets with our friendly honey bees and bumble bees and why so many of the beneficial insects are sprayed with insecticide. 
We are repeating this blog from April to help you see what a Yellow Jacket looks like compared to honey bees and bumble bees. Trying to control them earlier in the season is the best way to reduce or eliminate the Yellow Jacket population but proper identification will help so that you don’t use insecticides on the bees visiting your garden. If you have any questions about bees and yellow jackets, contact your local Extension Service office.

Anyone who has tried to have a picnic, work in their yard or go camping has likely encountered the Yellow Jacket. Here in Colorado, we encounter the Western Yellow Jacket, Vespula pennsylvanica, most often. Because they are yellow and black in color, people often mistake them for honeybees, but the Yellow Jacket is much larger and from the wasp family, and can make multiple painful stings when they attack. 

Early to late spring is a good time of year to begin watching for these pets, however the time of year they may appear can vary due to the weather. A good plan is as soon as you notice any Yellow Jackets around, it usually means that they are out looking for food and water and trying to establish a colony. Traps should be set out at that time. Keep water and food sources such as garbage cans covered while these insects are active.

There are commercial traps that can be easily purchased at garden centers, major retailers and home improvement stores.  They are designed to capture these pests using a chemical that attracts their species into the trap. Once inside they cannot escape the trap and die.  When you purchase a trap, take time to read the information in order to know how long the bait scent will last and when to replace it. If you have a large yard or property, several of the traps may be necessary and always put the traps in areas away from where you have your normal activities. 

Because the Yellow Jackets can also nest in the ground, wearing shoes in your yard and garden can help avoid being stung. 

The majority of “bee stings” reported actually come from the Yellow Jacket. These insects are considered a nuisance and can be aggressive. Doing some early control is very helpful to eliminate as many of these insects as possible. 

The following resources provide more information about Yellow Jackets and other nuisance wasps and how to identify each species as well as good information on honeybees and bumblebees: