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John Fulton

John Fulton
Former County Extension Director

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In The Backyard

Horticulture columns and tips done on a timely basis

Yellowjacket Hornets

Posted by John Fulton -

After discussing the black and yellow syrphid flies earlier, it's time for another black and yellow insect. Yellowjackets are the other common yellow and black insect this time of year, frequently spotted when the festival season begins in the late summer and fall period. Yellowjackets can be very aggressive in both biting and stinging. They are usually about twice the size of the syrphid flies, and the easiest way to tell them apart is to count the wings (hopefully without getting stung). Flies have one pair, and bees and wasps have two pairs. Technically the bald faced hornet is also a yellowjacket, but has more white on the face with a black body, rather than the black and yellow banded pattern of the eastern yellowjacket.

Yellowjackets are most frequently encountered when they scavenge for food. Their habit of feeding on nectar and sugar can create a nuisance. Yellowjackets are attracted to open cups and cans of soda and other sweet liquids. They are also attracted to open cans of garbage, bright flowery clothing, and floral scented perfumes. All outside garbage cans must be kept clean and well covered to reduce yellowjacket problems. Contact with the wasps can be decreased by reducing these attractions at picnics and other outings. In situations closer to home, the elimination of overripe fruit from gardens and orchards will dramatically decrease the number of scavenging yellowjackets. Holding gatherings indoors and using screens on windows will also help avoid yellowjacket problems.

There are a variety of traps on the market that claim to attract yellowjackets. These traps are baited with the scent of rotting fruit or other odors equally as appetizing to the yellowjackets. It is questionable whether these traps can out-compete the natural and man-made attractants described above. However, it is certain that through proper sanitation and removal of natural and man-made attractants, yellowjacket contact can be reduced. However, in situations where the potential for repeated contact exists, other management methods may be necessary. These traps can also attract more yellowjackets if placed close to the home or patio, so place them to attract the insects away from where you'll be.

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