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Can You Prevent Yellowjacket Nests?

By Chris Williams on April 21, 2013.
Yellow jacket flying in air

Question

We had several yellowjacket nest holes in our yard last year. Is there anything we can do to keep them from nesting there again this year? Will they re-use the same ground nests from last year?

Answer

In my experience, the best way to prevent ground nesting yellowjackets is to make sure you treat any nests the summer before. That advice is not going to help prevent yellowjackets for you this year, but it should make a big difference next year.

Here’s the logic

Yellowjacket nests don’t survive the winter in our area. In fall, the workers die and next year’s queens look for protected places to spend the winter. They usually don’t go far which means that if you have a lot of overwintering queens around your yard, you are more likely to have a lot of yellowjacket nests the following summer. If you treat the nests this summer, you kill the workers and next year’s queens.

In spring, the queen emerges from her sheltered place and either digs a nest hole or uses an existing cavity. She constructs a paper comb underground, lays eggs, and tends the first few larvae. New worker yellowjackets that develop then take over maintenance of the colony as it grows throughout the summer.

The sneaky thing about ground-nesting yellowjackets is that they don’t seem to prefer any particular type of location for their nest. They are just as likely to nest out in the open as they are to hide their nest entrance under ground cover vegetation. Unfortunately, they don’t re-use the old nest hole; that would make control too easy.

If you know where the nest entrance is, you can mark it with a branch, or a rake, or a rag for later treatment. The opening to a yellowjacket nest is round, ranges from the size of a nickel to a quarter, and there may be a ridge of dirt around the opening. It’s important to know that there can sometimes be a second entrance hole. When you can’t find the entrance hole, you sometimes have to track flying yellowjackets back to their nest. This is easier than it sounds since foraging yellowjackets tend to zip by on a direct, straight “bee line” back to the nest opening.

The sooner you can eliminate a growing yellowjacket colony, the better. Not just because a smaller colony will be easier to kill, but because by midsummer that nest can have up to 5,000 workers that will be foraging and annoying you and your family as they try to steal a piece of barbecue. You can treat yellowjacket nests yourself if you have the right protective equipment and are brave. Better though to have a professional do the job. Give Colonial a call.

Photo credit: wolfpix / Foter.com / CC BY-ND

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