Yellowjackets: Nature’s Premier Party Crashers

I am sure that everyone is familiar with the concept of crashing a party. It is a term coined from showing up to an event uninvited to partake in the festivities and on occasion, wreak havoc. So, with the weather cooling off and football season ramping up, we will be spending more time outdoors grilling and tailgating. It is with these activities that some poor souls could be the victims of yellow jackets crashing the party. During this time of year yellowjacket colonies are at full strength and could be housing up to 5,000 individuals ready to inflict downright pain.

During the spring and summer, yellowjackets are carnivorous, feeding primarily on flies, bees, and other potential pest insects. This behavior warrants them as being beneficial insects since they reduce populations of unwanted insects that attack cultivated or ornamental plants. While yellowjackets that are foraging for food will usually not sting, it is in the early fall that their food preference and behavior changes.

As the yellow jackets natural food supply begins to decrease during the fall, they tend to become more of a problem to humans. With the weather changing, we tend to eat meals outdoors a little more and yellowjackets will not hesitate to feed on our picnic foods (hot dogs, hamburgers, and soda) to fulfill their dietary needs. It is also during the fall that their behavior can turn more aggressive and if they are provoked during this time, they can become pure evil. These wasps are skilled at stinging, will often chase victims for long distances, and unlike bees, they can inflict multiple stings.

So, to help prevent these wasps from crashing your party avoid known or potential nest locations, reduce the smell of sweets (this includes perfumes, lotions, sugary soft drinks, and edible sweets), and avoid wearing bright colors (particularly yellow) which could attract foraging yellowjackets. If a nest must be treated, wear protective clothing to defend against stings and treat later in the evening when all foraging workers have returned to the nest. So, the next time that you are grilling out or simply enjoying an evening outdoors this fall, be mindful and stay safe from nature’s premier party crashers.