Yellow Jacket Control: Yellow Jacket Removal for Your Yard

August 5, 2021

Yellow jacket

Yellow jacket wasps can be heaven-sent for gardeners looking to get rid of harmful pests. In most cases, yellow jacket wasps can coexist with us. But, in certain situations, they can become annoying and, sometimes, dangerous pests, if you are not careful and to those that are allergic to their sting.

Our yellow jacket wasp guide covers the benefits of this mighty wasp and shows you how you can control their population in the event that they start to become a nuisance. Ready to have a fun summer without the risk of a wasp sting? Let us get started.

What Are Yellow Jackets?

Yellow jacket refers to a predatory social wasp in North America of the genera Vespula and Dolichovespula. The North American yellow jacket (Vespula alascensis), eastern yellow jacket (Vespula maculifrons), Western yellow jacket (Vespula atropilosa), and prairie yellow jacket (Vespula atropilosa) are native to North America.

Most yellow jackets are ground-nesters meaning they can be found in holes in the ground, under porches or steps, in cracks inside walls, at the base of trees, and the list goes on. In some cases, the queen can use a void in the wall of a building as a nesting space. They can also be found in bushes or low-hanging branches on trees.

Yellow jacket colonies can contain about 1,000 workers by fall. All of them are sterile females. However, in the late summer, males can start to appear. When they become adults, they can mate with females, which will become the queens next year. Fertilized females hibernate in the winter while the workers and males die off in the colder months.

They are very beneficial insects that can help munch down on grubs and beetles and pollinate flowers. During the larval stage of its life cycle, larvae need protein, which is why they can be helpful for handling garden pests such as cabbage worms, aphids, flies, and beetle grubs.

After the queen stops laying eggs in the fall and the young are being raised, the wasps can become a nuisance. As the bug population and nectar sources die down in late summer and early fall, they can turn to other food sources such as your backyard barbecue spread. Starvation can make them aggressive since they have more difficulty finding food.

Yellow Jackets in Structures

German yellow jackets, not as common in North America, originated in Europe and can be found in the northeastern and Midwestern U.S. These yellow jackets nest in structures such as crawl spaces, attics, wall voids, and other cracks and crevices in a building. They can make their nests from wood fibers and saliva and can use the nest from the year before.

Yellow Jackets in Structures and Ground

The most common type of yellow jacket, Vespula vularis, can be found across many U.S. states. They are known for building their nests below and above ground. Eastern yellow jackets are known for their ground nests although they can nest up above, too. The southern yellow jacket (Vespula squamosa) can also have ground and aerial nests.

Yellow Jackets in the Ground

Western yellow jackets (Vespula pensylvanica) and eastern yellow jackets build their nests in the ground in places such as rodent burrows.

Yellow jacket nest in the ground

Yellow Jackets in Aerial Nests

Yellow jacket in tree brush

Some yellow jacket species such a D. arenaria and D. maculata are known for building nests above ground in trees or in eaves of buildings. While they are not as aggressive as other yellow jackets they still can pose a danger.


Yellow jacket wasps are known for their small size and alternating yellow and black body segments that run horizontally.

  • Length: 10 to 16 mm
  • Color: Generally, yellow jackets have yellow and black body segments, but some may have black and white coloration.
  • Waist: While they a similar size to the honey bee, yellow jackets have a thinner and defined waist.
  • Wings: Yellow jacket wings are long, almost spanning its entire body and fold laterally when at rest.

What Do Yellow Jackets Eat?

Caterpillars eating cabbage

For home gardeners, yellow jackets can be a beneficial insect. Not only are they pollinators, but they are also known to snack on flies, beetle grubs, and other garden pests. However, they can be a double-edged sword. They can gravitate towards sugary treats, meats, and fish, too.

Do Yellow Jackets Sting?

Similar to bees, yellow jackets generally have a live-and-let-live approach, unless it comes to protecting their colonies or if they are disturbed. Yellow jackets are aggressive compared to honey bees and paper wasps. If they are threatened, their nest is disturbed, or you are competing for a food source (that BBQ’d burger), they will sting.

What is worse is that, unlike bees who can deliver a single sting with their large barbs, yellow jackets can sting multiple times because they have lance-like stingers and their sting can hurt more than a bee’s. In some cases, a yellow jacket sting can induce an allergic reaction.

If you get stung by a yellow jacket, leave the area immediately. Do not try to swat or crush them. This will make them more aggressive. They can emit a pheromone that attracts other yellow jackets.

How Do You Get Yellow Jackets?

Two yellow jackets

Yellow jackets are normally introduced to your yards when they smell their favorite foods such as meat, fish, sugary drinks, and more. In the late summer and early fall, they may quickly crash your party and head straight for the grill and dining area. They are also known to hover around open trash cans. Plan ahead when you are hosting a BBQ or just having dinner outside during the summer or early fall by placing disposable yellow jacket traps strategically in areas adjacent to your eating area so that they are attracted to the traps away from food.

Rescue!, Disposable Yellow Jacket Trap

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Are Yellow Jackets Dangerous to You or Your Home?

Generally, yellow jackets do not cause any major damage to your home. However, they can build nests in the most inconvenient places such as walls and attics if there are opportunities that are open for nesting sites. They are fiercely protective of their nests and queens.

If you run into a yellow jacket nest in the wild or by your home, we recommend steering clear since they can be protective of their nests and will sting. If you let them alone, they will leave you alone too and help control many of the insect pests that damage your plants.

How to Get Rid of Yellow Jackets

If you have a yellow jacket infestation on your hands, there are a few ways you can reduce their presence. An infestation can last all summer long. At the end of the season, the queen flies to a different location to make a new hive. The rest of the workers are left behind to die off and the hives are not used again.


One of the best ways to control yellow jackets is to reduce the attractants that bring them in the first place. This may mean getting rid of its food sources during the summer and mid-autumn. Always keep your trash containers closed. If you have an open container, make sure to regularly empty it. Rather than throwing food waste into the trash, bag and seal it before adding it to your container unless you are combining it with your yard debris bin.

Nest Control

If you have located a nest in your home or you just want to find the nest before it becomes too big of a problem, you should always look for it during the day. It is much easier to see the workers go in and out of the entrance points. Watch for different entrance and exit points and mark them.

For the ultimate protection, make sure you wear protective clothing such as a long-sleeve shirt, protective eyewear, pants, and a mask. Check for yellow jackets and follow them to their hive locations. Keep your ears open for any loud buzzing that could identify the nest nearby.

When you are trying to get rid of yellow jackets, always do so at night since they do not have good vision and most of them will be in the hive, so you can get rid of most of them in one fell swoop. Plus, you reduce your risk of getting stung. Just make sure not to use a flashlight since they can be attracted to the light.

Yellow jackets can be killed off with pyrethrum aerosol. Pyrethrum is a gas that can fill a cavity and kill yellow jackets on contact. When you spray it, allow the aerosol to dry. Then, you can dust the entry points with insecticide dust to get rid of workers coming back and hatch-outs in the future.

The next day, check the yellow jacket nests to see if the yellow jackets have been killed. If you do not see any coming in and out, it may mean you have been successful in eliminating the population. You can repeat this process until the yellow jacket population is eliminated. If the nest is located in a hard-to-reach area, you can buy a long-reach sprayer to extend your reach.

Ortho, Hornet & Wasp Killer, 16 oz

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Spectracide HG-30110 Wasp and Hornet Killer, 18 oz Aerosol Can

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If you are not interested in using chemical cleaners, there are few ways you can naturally get rid of yellow jackets from your home, including oil-based natural formulas. Since these insects are ground-nesters, you can place a glass bowl on top of the entry and exit of the hive to trap and starve them, but it is important to know all access points to the nest. If you are unsure, do not use this method. Always wear protective gloves and clothing when using these methods.


When yellow jacket populations become too much to bear, you can set up your own bait station full of attractants and insecticide to lure yellow jackets and eliminate their population. A bait station includes some fresh meat alongside an insecticide mixture.

Bait stations are particularly useful in the spring and summer for most yellow jackets. Scavenger yellow jackets are known to eat protein and meat. Other common yellow jackets such as the German yellow jackets can fall prey to bait stations, too. In the fall, you can lure yellow jackets with carbohydrates instead of meat.


Yellow jacket traps can help you catch these pests if you place them right by their nest alongside a lure such as a sugary fruit juice or meat. These traps can help you attract these insects.

Simply place the trap near the nest and away from you, children, and pets. You can bring traps to your picnics or barbecues when they can become more present. Some traps come with lure but you can also use meat or fruit juice.

Call in the Professionals

When DIY products cannot stand up to a yellow jacket infestation or if you do not feel you can safely get rid of them on your own, you can call in a professional exterminator to help you get the job done. Yellow Jackets may be groundmasters but they are also known to have hives in bushes or in trees. If you just cannot seem to get rid of these insects, call in a pro.

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We are here to help you keep yellow jackets in check all throughout the year.