Country Living Series

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Yellow jackets

It has been a bad, bad year around these parts for yellow jackets and bald-faced hornets.

Especially yellow jackets. It seems that every time I bump something or drag the garden hose across a different spot, I discover a new and (ahem) exciting nest. This includes random folds in garden tarps. Yikes!



It's been a long, hot, and (mostly) dry summer, which I'm sure helped the wasps. It we take a quiet moment outside, we can hear a low-grade constant hum from all around us. I know of at least four nests in the garden. There were five, but we sprayed the most massive one (located under one of the corn tires). Yes, they're everywhere. Rather amazingly, no one has yet been stung this summer, which is a minor miracle in itself.

The bald-faced hornets are also pervasive.


It seems that no matter which direction we turn, there's something stingy nearby.


The interesting thing is how the yellow jackets congregate near wooden posts. We first noticed this when it started getting dicey to open our driveway livestock gate (which has stout wooden posts at either end) -- yellow jackets were everywhere. But then we noticed the wooden electrical pole across the road had swarms of yellow jackets around it. The neighborhood mailboxes are clustered near another pole, and it has so many yellow jackets that someone hung two traps nearby. Drive along the road and every single pole has clouds of yellow jackets hovering around it. Why? What's so fascinating about wooden posts?

I'm fully aware that wasps are beneficial insects and play a major part in pest control... but this was getting ridiculous. As summer's hot weather draws to its close, it seems the wasps are becoming more aggressive too. So... we got a wasp trap.


The trap came with a small plastic vial of attractant and a cotton ball. The instructions warned that the attractant was so powerful that the trap should only be hung late in the evening or in the very early morning. Yeah right, I thought. How powerful can it be?


So early yesterday morning Don hung the trap on our porch and, we learned, the attractant is VERY powerful. The yellow jackets immediately began swarming around it, and stayed swarming all day. Can you see the ones flying nearby?




All day long we watched the trap fill with hundreds and hundreds of insects.


By late afternoon we had a noticeable decrease in wasps around the house.


Impressed, we bought two more traps and will hang one at the end of the shop, and the other in a corner of the garden. It's always nice when a product exceeds expectations.

I don't like killing things unnecessarily, but the wasps won't last much longer anyway. Once cold weather moves in -- say, about a month from now -- they're doomed. And for the time being, this certainly makes our lives a lot less, well, exciting.


Which is just fine by me.

34 comments:

  1. Weve noticed ALOT of yellow jackets around our place in the suburbs of Minneapolis/St Paul. No stings here either. Ive even caught the dogs trying to play(?) with them. Our weather has been hot( high in the upper 90's low 100's) and dry as well but has taken a swing towards Fall these past several days with temps in the upper 60's. I fear Fall will go by quickly and gut feeling says a nasty, cold winter is on its way. UGH!

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  2. those pictures are an incredible testimony to the trap. WOW.

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  3. I will have to get that trap, the ones we tried didn't work nearly so well! Thankfully our flying stinging insect population hasn't been QUITE as bad as last year. Last year it was simply insane, and as much as I hate spraying poisons the ones nesting on the house had to be dealt with because my SIL is allergic.....

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  4. Flies have been a real problem around our city this summer. We found a fly trap at our ranch / farm supply store that exceeded our expectations, so we have several around our yard. I don't envy you Patrice, flies are much less 'exciting' than wasps and hornets!

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  5. This is may be an answer to the ongoing war I have every year at my place. I dont mind the nests in less frequented areas of the garden/house eaves, but when I start getting dive bombed at my doors, I get a little irritated. Does it work on red wasps too?

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  6. We have had our share of these creatures this year, also. We are huge fans of the traps, as well and have been kept busy emptying them out. In the past, if the attractant was worn out (and it will last a couple months or more) I have used lunch meat and/or jelly.

    We have one of their larger nests on display in our school shelves. We found it under our deck the first year we lived here and before we discovered who peaceful outdoor chores can be if one is not constantly being harassed by the hornets and jackets.

    Glad you found and decided to try the traps!

    sidetracksusie

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  7. Yeah, I had to empty our yellowjacket traps (4 of 'em) around our place, every other day.

    They were thick this year.

    Got stung once, on the eyebrow.....ouch!

    Bob
    III

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  8. I would have done the same thing. As long as they don't bother me, I leave them alone; but when they hurt me, I hurt them.

    Bald face wasp. I think I've seen a couple here. Mostly we have the paper wasps and the mud daubers. I dislike them a lot.

    Have a pleasant, less exciting, Sunday.

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  9. We have had few yellow jackets this summer as the ground was soaked for weeks, I saw one nest where they built up in the grass but I destroyed that, I haven't missed them. Saw a couple hornets so there must be a nest somewhere. I cut with a scythe so I dislike running into bees but have learned to watch for them.

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  10. I use some crushed grapes in mine as they seem to love our vines. It works but not as quickly as the attractor stuff.

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  11. Here in the North East we've had a wet summer, so the wasps haven't been too bad this summer. However, last summer we were swamped with them! While my family was on vacation they built a nest in my CAR! The car I have to use for work! It was awful, and my poor dog got stung in a very private place while trying to do her "business". Borrowed a beekeeper friend's suit and we showed no mercy.

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  12. Two things:
    first I noticed people have a tendency to leave non-aggressive yellow jackets alone. The more aggressive ones tend to get sprayed leaving the ones with a better temperament. One man's theory.

    Second, I have looked up close at the varmints when they are on wood poles and noticed they are actually chewing the wood to get the paper for their nests. A less toxic (notice I didn't say non-toxic) alternative to wasp spray is diesel fuel applied via spray bottle after dark. Works great and is much less expensive.

    Larry C in Colorado

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    Replies
    1. do you apply it to the wood poles or to the nests?
      deb harvey

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  13. Wow - gotta get some of those traps! The wasps and yellow jackets seem to get a lot more aggressive this time of year... probably has to do with being at the end of their life cycle. Yikes!

    Julie

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  14. It's been so bad here, too, that we can't even enjoy the BBQ!

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  15. Thanks Patrice! I haven't yet found a decent wasp/hornet trap here in MA so I appreciate the photo to guide me to do some research on my own. I just ordered two of them for here after reading the feedback. We have a very old house and have had SERIOUS "hornets in the walls" problems in the past and I had to rely on an exterminator. That's just fine, as far as it goes, and I don't really mind spending the $300 for a 'treatment', but for some reason a lot of them banded together a couple of years ago and wanted everyone to pay a yearly one-time fee to kill hornets, whether we had them or not. After 15-20 phone calls to local exterminators we found out that most are in this 'scheme' and won't come out for a one-time fee to spray the eaves of my old house and my out-buildings. What a strange problem to have.... This wasp trap may come in very handy.

    God Bless,
    Janet in MA

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  16. What was the house fly trap that worked? We are under siege from smart ones here.

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    Replies
    1. Starbar is the brand that worked for us. We chose the 'Trap 'N Toss' one - it's disposable. It seemed to work best for us hung in trees around our yard. HTH!

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  17. What was the house fly trap that worked?

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  18. My Mom has that trap on her front porch, she has Hummingbird feeders on it and it attracts lots of bees.

    Anothermom

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  19. This is a perfect example of one of my mantras: "I'm the human! I have a bigger brain and TOOLS! I will win!"

    Last year, I was suddenly engulfed in a swarm of yellow jackets when I accidentally disturbed a nest. I screamed and panicked.

    But not one sting. In fact they weren't interested in me. They didn't even follow me when I ran. They just kind of dispersed.

    Also, last year, I found one in my hair in the middle of the night. This time I got stung on my finger. But it wasn't nearly as painful as a bee sting. It was kind of wimpy, actually.

    I decided not to fear them any more.

    But they're still ugly.

    This year? Nothing.

    Just Me

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  20. I wonder if it attracts honey bees as well. If it does it would be bad for me :(

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    1. Late to the party, but perhaps you will see this.

      We have a yellow jacket trap in hanging in our Aspen trees in the center of our circle driveway. The area is an oblong garden area surrounding the trees and the lavender and catmint attract many honey bees. None have entered the trap that is hanging there.
      We have used these traps since 2008, usually have 6 of them out at any one time. I am not a bee keeper but we have plenty of honey bee visitors. I empty the traps in my chicken yard and have never seen a honey bee in one.
      HOWEVER, I have patiently released bees from my sticky fly traps (knock on wood, didn't get stung!) only to have everyone of them fly right back onto the sticky part. I use the fly bags now, so we don't kill the bees.
      sidetracksusie (who used to catch LOTS of bees in jars to chase my brothers with)

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  21. Patrice,

    The stingers are awful down here in the LC Valley as well. We found a wasp nest in our maple tree the size of a football - no idea how long it's been growing. We also used one of the yellow traps for the first time this year and filled it up about 1/3 of the way in less than a day. Did you know the fellow who invented them is from Spokane? We've emptied many cans of spray this year, and STILL haven't killed them all!

    Blessings,
    Lisa

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  22. Can you share the manufacturer or a link to where you got these traps?

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    1. The traps are readily available at most hardware stores around here, and are simply called "Yellow Jacket Traps" (by which I'm assuming the attractant is specific to yellow jackets as opposed to, say, honeybees). We haven't noticed anything BUT yellow jackets in the trap -- no bald-faced hornets, etc.

      The traps are made by a company called Rescue (http://www.rescue.com/).

      - Patrice

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    2. They make a "W.H.Y." trap for wasps and hornets as well.

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    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  23. at bee club meeting yesterday, keepers said they are troubled by very large numbers of a bee-eating hornet and have had to take measures against them.

    said a nest of these hornets could wipe out a beehive on one day if left free to do so!!
    this is northeast ohio.
    deb harvey

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  24. Yellow Jackets haven't been aggressive but numerous. Picked up three of those kind of wasp traps at Home Depot. Work great! Renewable inexpensively.

    Also found two gigantic hornets nests in the barn. Just bought the place a few months ago, so don't know if the nests are new or old. Waiting for the 1st or 2nd major freeze before taking them down.

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  25. I am thinking most of the abundance of bees this year have actually been paper wasps, not yellow jackets. They congregate on wood because they chew up the pulp to make their papery nests.

    They are not nearly as aggressive as yellowjackets, but if there are too many around it is easy to get stung in self defense.

    http://cru.cahe.wsu.edu/CEPublications/eb0643/eb0643.pdf

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    Replies
    1. You are correct! They are paper wasps. Yellow jacket nests are different.

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  26. Actually, yellowjackets, paper wasps, bald faced hornets and European hornets are all wasps and all use wood to manufacture paper to make their hives or nests. And at least in the northern hemisphere they don't use the same nest twice, unlike honey bees. By the way; honey bees don't make paper hives. They make their hive in something hollow.

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