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Where Do Yellowjackets Nest?

By Chris Williams on August 1, 2014.

yellowjacket ground nestThe short answer to this question would seem to be, “anywhere they want!” but the fact is that yellowjackets do have preferred nest sites. Just in New Hampshire, we have at least 9 different species of yellowjacket wasps. Most of the yellow and black wasps that we know as “yellowjackets” nest either in the ground or in an existing cavity like a wall void in a building.

Another wasp, the baldfaced hornet, is technically a yellowjacket although it is black and white in color. This is the wasp that makes the soccer ball-size, gray papery nests that hang high in trees. Baldfaced hornets also sometimes build their nests under the eaves of buildings.

Most Yellowjackets Are Ground Nesters

Yellowjacket nests are at their largest in late summer. That’s also when yellowjackets increase their foraging and become more aggressive. If you have lots of yellowjackets flying around, you can often follow their flight path visually and see where they are entering a ground nest. The entrance hole is usually about the size of a nickel. It may be quite visible with a cleared area around it, or the hole may be hidden in foliage. Often, yellowjackets will nest in an abandoned animal burrow.

What Should You Do if You Find the Nest?

If you find a yellowjacket ground nest, it’s not recommended that you try to eliminate it yourself, especially at this point in the summer when yellowjackets are more aggressive. You should, however, warn others to stay away from the nest opening. Any movement or vibration too close to the nest can be perceived by the yellowjackets as an attack on the nest.

If the nest is in an area where it is not likely to be disturbed, or where children or pets won’t encounter it, you may not want to do anything about it. Even so, the yellowjackets foraging from the nest may be causing more of a problem than you are willing to put up with (see “Yellowjacket Nests Too Close for Comfort?”). In that case, call in a professional.

You can mark the nest’s location for your exterminator by laying the handle of a rack, or a plant stake, or a branch, on the ground pointing towards the entrance hole. Be careful though because there can be more than one hole for a ground nest. If you find yellowjackets entering the walls or roof of your home, you will definitely need to contact an exterminator since yellowjackets could escape from the void nest into living space.

By Da voli (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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