Wasps & Yellow Jackets

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Yellow jacket increase in the area?

Oct 2012

Does anyone know if there has been an increase in the number of yellow jackets in the East Bay? I was recently hiking in Tilden and was stung (along with 2 other hikers) over 17 times. The wasps were very very aggressive, we guessed that a dog disturbed a nest (hive?) nearby, but the wasps came AFTER us, even as we ran away. My son's camp group was swarmed - also in Tilden - last summer. My friend's 5 year-old son sat on a nest this past weekend and was stung over 31 times. I know several people who have been stung while just walking along local streets or in a back yard. I grew up in this area and can't recall the problem ever being this bad. A few people getting stung here or there, but not getting swarmed and attacked so aggressively. Is it climate change? Are the wasps different? Anyone else notice this? Any yellow jacket experts out there? Also, I don't want to stop hiking but am pretty skittish about going back to Tilden at this point - any wasp avoidance tips? thanks! red and swollen

My information is only anecdotal, but I, too have noticed that yellow jackets seem to be more of a problem than in the past. I've been stung while doing yard work (did not disturb nest or wasps, just minding my own business), and aggressively followed by them while hanging out at the pool (I wasn't eating or anything, just sitting around and then trying calmly but unsuccessfully to walk away from them). It's gotten to the point where I actually had a nest in our yard exterminated this year, even though I normally oppose pesticides and poisons, because I felt like I couldn't walk past it without inciting them. Maybe the weather pattern this year has caused increased numbers of wasps or something like that? I Hate Wasps

Yellow jackets and honey bees and other wasps and bees are very busy right now storing up food for winter. The species that tend to be more aggressive anyhow (yellow jackets) are likely to be even more touchy. I have not noticed an increase in them in tilden park, myself. You can ask one of the rangers at the nature center in tilden if it is a seasonal thing or if this year there are more.

In general, when i walk on any single frack trail or off trail in parks or even yards, i try to keep an eye out for wasp activity. Seeing a lot in one area may mean you are near a nest or near a carcass they are eating. If you do distrub or go too near to a nest, the yellow jackets will defend their home and family and come after you. As they are a more aggressive species, they may follow you once they are switched into defense mode. In our back yard we wear shoes on the lawn in the dry early fall season to keep from stepping on them as they scan low to the ground for food. In the hills you can stick to the fire trails which are wider than single track trails and typically have more human traffic. You can keep your or your friends dog on a leash so they do not disgrub anything off-trail. You can teach the kids to be on the look out while they walk and before they sit down or take a sip of their juice. Just like they learn to look out for poison oak, or mountain lions. So dont be afraid to hike, just be aware. Hiker chick

I was told by a pest management person that this is the time of year that mother yellow jackets push their babies out of their nest to get their own food. So now is the season of too many yellow jackets. Frieda

A fellow Tilden Park hiker here, & I wonder which trails you're on when you encounter the wasps? I want to avoid those trails too! Weekly hikes on trails at the Quarry, South Park, behind the little farm, & Inspiration Pt. have been problem free for me. keep breathing

About the yellow jackets this year--I've been wondering the same thing! I spend a lot of time hiking in Tilden, and this year my son was stung, my dog was stung 3 times, and I was at a birthday party where 3 or 4 kids were stung. In all cases it seemed we had wandered too close to a nest, but in 2 cases the nests were right along trails and not obvious, so hard to avoid! This was 4-6 weeks ago, and now it seems to have died down (at least in my experience). I just figured it was a banner year for yellow jackets, hopefully not something more nefarious. Sarah

Just wanted to give everyone some great advice for warding off yellow jackets. I'm from the Napa area where they swarm at the end of every summer and learned this trick from my grandmother. Bounce dryer sheets. Put them on your picnic table, if your walking around with a plate in your hand, hold a dryer sheet under the plate. I've tucked them into hat bands, or just rubbed the sheet all over my daughters clothing. They hate the scent. We went to a yellow jacket infested pumpkin patch in Livermore last year, we held the sheets under our paper plates and it was like we had a magic bubble around us while everyone else holding food ran around swatting and freaking out. We keep a box in our car trunk at all times:) sw

Yellow Jacket Extermination

June 2007

I just discovered a huge yellow jacket nest tucked inside a wooden trellis and against the wall of our house. The nest is about 8 feet above an outdoor entrance that we regularly use so, reluctantly, I feel I need to exterminate the yellow jackets. Any suggestions? Thanks. Linda

At least if you're in Alameda County, call Vector Control. They came out quickly and rid us of a yellow-jacket nest on two different occasions. Linda

There's a safe easy cheap way to get rid of yellow jackets. Buy a trap. They are in Longs and Payless. They look sort of like a hummingbird feeder. You put a bit of hamburger inside and you hang them near the nest. The wasps are attracted to the raw meat, enter and can't get out. They die there creating more smells of decaying meat and attract more wasps. I've done it several times and seen it done in elementary schools. Works much better than any pesticide. oakland gardener

We had a similar situation. There was a hive in the ground in our backyard right by our air conditioning unit. We used AANTEX, an exterminator that we used for ants also. They are great! Give them a call. Glad the yellow jackets are gone

Yellow jacket nest or beehive (?) in the eaves

March 2007

We just found a small beehive under the overhang of our porch. It is a little over 1'' diameter, and the holes in the honeycomb (I'm not sure if I'm naming this correctly) look empty. Right next to it is another small one, with only about 7 honeycombs, with a bee that appears to be working on it. (Yellow & black stripes, long body.) So neither are big yet. How do we get rid of them? Is there any way other than killing them with pesticides? If an expert has to do it, are there any recommendations for someone who does not charge too much? ~Don't want to kill them, but don't want to get stung.

I live in Berkeley and had a similar situation. I can't remember if it was the city or the county, but whoever it was removed the wasp nest for free. They did use pesticides. I did not have to (and was not) home at the time of the removal. Bee free

What you are describing is not a beehive, but a yellow jackets nest. These creatures are pretty nasty and aggresive and if you don't get rid of it you very much risk getting stung. My husband suggests getting something sweet and putting poison on it and then leave it out for them to find. I personally think you call someone and have them come and get rid of it. You really don't want to mess around with yellow jackets - they are quite nasty! yellow jacket hater!

This sounds like a wasp nest to me. Wasps can be aggressive and each one can sting multiple times, so be careful. You can have someone remove it professionally. We have had this done several times and be sure they have a 3 month guarantee because the wasps can come right back. We now hang a device with something that attracts the wasps to come in a plastic device and then they cannot get out. This has worked well for us with no recurrence for years. Judy

It sounds like you have a wasp nest. I had a wasp nest in the eves of the house - they were getting in through a small space next to the downspout. I called Alameda County Vector Control (their website is http://www.acvcsd.org/ )& they sent a guy who blew in some pesticide and killed the nest. This is a free service. We've also used them in the past to conrol mosquitoes in our tiny pond (for free). So, if you live in Alameda County give them a call! You have such a small situation that they can probably advise you by phone how best to get rid of it. By the way, I wasn't sure I just didn't want to live and let live with the wasps, but I learned that's a bad idea - bees & wasps can, if undisturbed, create monster hives within the walls & roofs of a house -- with nasty consequences. Monica

No need for pesticides. no need to pay someone. On a cool morning, spray with water (or 409 or windex if spray bottle is easier). Just douse the thing but don't stand directly underneath it. the bees/wasps will fall out to the ground (can't fly with wet wings). stomp on them. knock comb to ground with stick (or broom handle). Stomp on it. Voila. Wear long sleeve shirt and pants to have confidence none will fly up your clothes and closed toe shoes with a fairly smooth tread for more effective stomping. Apologies to those not in favor of killing the poor buzzers. stomping out the buzzers

Is the ''honeycomb'' kind of greyish and papery? And does the ''bee'' have a long body with easy to see sections (kind of like a really thin waist and fuller hips)?

If so, then I think you have the start of a wasp or hornet's nest. The best thing to do is get the toxic wasp/hornet killer spray at the hardware store. The can shoots a long stream which you aim at the nest. One quick shot should eliminate the nest and shouldn't contaminate too much else. If you leave the nest, it will get bigger and will contain more wasps, making it more likely someone will be stung. Anon

The size of the little hives and the long bodies makes me think they are more likely to be hornets, who are much more aggressive stingers than bees. You definitely do NOT want two hornet nests on your porch!

You have a number of alternatives, though most of them do entail killing them. Don't worry--there are probably more in your neighborhood, you're not wiping out the local population (I guess they are fruit tree pollinators, I'll grudge them that). The gentlest way to get them to move is to knock down / crush their nests (preferably when the adults are not around so they don't come straight after you). They figure, ''apparently it's not safe to build there,'' and look for someplace else. Or, you can buy a hornet bait trap (they look kind of like hummingbird feeders), which will lure the hornets in with a sweet scent, they will be trapped inside, and die. The third thing I can think is, yep--a pesticide spray. You can buy them in cans, you'd spray their nests with them inside.

But with all those ways to take care of them yourself, I don't think you'd need a professional. Eva

Yellow jacket ground nest removal

August 2006

We have what appears to be an underground yellow jacket nest in our garden. i got stuck pruning my roses. now whenever i see an open hole or what appears to be a flattened piece of chewed up cardboard i have a mild anxiety attack. i've read on bpn that contra costa county removes for free? any advice on whether alameda does? if not, any recommendations on pest control? thx

Contact Alameda County Vector Control. Their website is: http://www.acvcsd.org/. Good luck! Christina

We're under attack by yellowjackets

July 2004

Help! The outdoor area of my home is under attack by yellowjackets.It is impossiblefor us to have a meal outdoors out our deck as we usually do. I have put out the traps from Home Depot which has caught quite a lot of the yellowjackets. However, there are always more who swarm around our food. Seems that we have a nest somewhere. Can anyone giveme advice about what to do to get rid of them!!

If you live in Alameda county, you're in luck. Contact Alameda County Vector Control (510-567-6800;http://www.acvcsd.org/). I had a minor (but mighty upsetting) underground nest between a bush and my mail slot in the wall of the garage. The postman started dumping the mail on the porch, it got so annoying. Vector Control came out and dusted the area with a fine white powder. All I had to do was sign a consent form for the chemical. No charge. The service comes out of the parcel tax, I believe. The man even came back after a couple of days to make sure the pests were gone, and they were. He's welcome at my picnic anytime! Sean

Wasps are flying all over our backyard!

April 2003

Now that Spring is here, the bees and wasps are flying all over our backyard! I can hardly walk out there, and forget trying to sit and have a nice lunch without these pesty things practically swarming. Help! What do I do! Any advice would be most appreciated.

We've had a lot of success with the Rescue Trap (see http://www.rescue.com/faqs/yellowjacket_trap_faq.htm). It uses an attractant and the wasps fly in and can't fly out. We've put up numerous traps around the perimeter of our property and haven't had a problem since then. You do need to rebait every couple of months or so, but you can buy the attractant separately from the traps so that's good! You're probably talking about yellowjacket wasps, since ''bees'' aren't attracted to meat or drinks. Some people supplement the attractants in the Rescue traps with protein and juice, depending on the time of year, but we've found it to be too much of a hassle to remove the old meat or moldy juice from a trap full of buzzing yellowjackets, if you know what I mean! Apparently, if the meat or juice has gone bad, it acts as a deterrent to the yellowjackets--not at all the effect we were looking for. Good luck getting this problem under control! Christina

Preventing bees (?) when we eat outside

Nov 2002

Does anyone know how to prevent bees from coming to our deck when we eat outside? Is there any kind of service that can help us? Thanks

When you say ''bees'', I assume that you mean the aggressive and nasty yellow jackets that are so prolific especially when food is around. We have bought several ''yellow jacket traps'' at hardware stores. They have a plastic container which comes with a syrupy liquid that you put in (replace every now and then) and hang it near where your eating area is. The yellow jackets are attracted to the smell, go into the container and can't get out. We have had one in our back yard and take one camping with us. It works really well and while it's not a sure cure for ALL yellow jackets it makes an outdoor meal much more tolerable. As I understand, yellow jackets eat meat and the smell of food attracts them, whereas honey bees and bumble bees only eat the nectar from flowering plants. They may come check you out for a few seconds but are generally not agressive and will leave. The yellow jackets can make an outdoor meal really miserable, in my opinion. Good luck. June

What you have on your deck are yellow jackets not bees. Yellow jackets are omnivorous and come after human food - especially meat, nectar, other insects, and even hummingbirds. They mostly die out in the winter and build back up in the summer. So next year you can get a pheromone trap from the hardware store that they get in but can't get out. sarah