The Yellow Jacket   Leave a comment




By Tim Hauserman

Ah yes, there we are merrily enjoying the beauty of the waning Tahoe summer when they arrive. Swarms of them, we can hear them in the forest, we can see them all around, and if we get between them and our food they may choose us as their evening punching bag. Yellow jackets. Not Tahoe’s favorite animals. Especially when you are camping in the forest or throwing some chicken on the barbie. They do, however, consume massive quantities of other pest insects and apparently whether we like it or not, are a part of the mountain ecosystem.

Since we are stuck with them, I suppose it is a good idea to understand them. First, yellow jackets are not bees, they are wasps. Predatory wasps of the genera vespula dolichoespula to be exact. Females are capable of stinging with their lance like stingers that have small barbs on the end. Similar to bees, they are not a threat to humans, unless you have a reaction to the venom, in which case they can send you to the hospital.

Yellow jackets live in colonies in tree stumps, soil cavities or nests. The weather in the spring helps decide what sort of a yellow jacket season we will have. Cold, wet springs can wipe out the queens, giving us a respite from the little buggers. This was not a cold, wet spring, so we got em all over the place this fall. While the nests are formed in the spring, it is in the mid-summer when the adult workers emerge to forage for food. This is when they bring food back to the nest, which enables the queen to expand the nest rapidly, creating wasps like crazy. Once the wet and cold arrives in the fall, the yellow jackets die off and their nests do not make it through the winter.




How to keep the infestation down to size?
-Yellow Jacket traps can be found at hardware stores. Don’t scrimp. Get more then one and place them in your yard, especially near garbage containers and the BBQ.
-They are attracted to sugary drinks and may fly into a can. Pour the drink into a cup so you know if a yellow jacket has decided to take a sugar swim.
-If you find a nest near your home, you can contact a pest control company to eliminate it.
-When eating outdoors in areas where yellow jackets are active. Cover all food until you are ready to eat. You can build do it yourself traps with a coffee can. Put soapy water in the bottom. Put a stick with a piece of meat on the top. Once they eat they drop into the water and can’t get out.

Treating a sting:
For most a yellow jacket sting is painful, but not threatening. Wash the area with soap and water. Apply cold water or ice to the site, perhaps with a bit of meat tenderizer. Take Benadryl to reduce swelling and deal with a reaction.

Often if there is one yellow jacket sting, their buddies get excited and don’t want to miss out on the action. This is when things can get dicey. If you are allergic, seek medical help right away. Especially if you are the victim of more then one sting.



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