Yellow Jackets

August 30, 2013

Yellow Jackets



The time of year has come when people begin noticing bees going in and out of their home or get stung by mowing over the entrance of an in ground nest.  Worst case scenario is waking up to a bedroom filled with flying, buzzing, and crawling bees.  Where did they come from?

Before we answer that question let’s set the record straight about what they are.  They are yellow jackets and are members of the wasp family, they are not bees.  The nest was started in the early spring by one foundress (entomologist call them that name I like reproductive or new queen) and by late summer there can be thousands of them hurrying in and out of the nest entry hole.  We notice them this time of year because there are so many coming and going, reminds one of a busy major airport.

Yellow jackets always build their nest in a void found in a building, an old rodent burrow in the ground, or under other things in our yards like landscape timbers or railroad ties.  If yellow jackets are nesting in your house DO NOT PLUG THE ENTRANCE TO THEIR NEST.  They will collectively chew their way out and usually that means you will have hundreds of unwanted yellow visitors inside.

Yellow jackets can be very aggressive when their nest is attacked.  They do not lose their stinger when they use it as honey bees do.  Each yellow jacket can sting multiple times, the sewing machine effect.

Recently I was called upon to eradicate “a nest of bees” (yellow jackets) that had taken up residence in a plastic flower pot.  The Y.J’s, that is what my brother and I tagged them in our youth, went into the pot and then down into the ground under the pot via the drain holes.  A senior citizen owned the property where the nest was and told a younger acquaintance about his desire to be rid of it.  The Good Samaritan sensing the potential danger volunteered to take the pot away.

Mr. Samaritan brought a five gallon bucket to place the pot in and a trash bag to place over the bucket to contain the “bees”.  When the pot was moved it was like digging up the nest with a shovel, the yellow jackets did not like the top floor of their nest being excavated.  Mr. Samaritan hadn’t run that fast since his high school track days, he only received a sting on an ear. 

Enter the Pest Management Professional (PMP) that’s me.  Knowing that a ground nest of yellow jackets had been disturbed I chose to wear my full protective gear.  First I pull on coveralls over my uniform and close off the pant legs with Velcro strips.  I button all the snaps at my wrist, waist and neck.  Next my BEE SUIT goes on.  It is a white jacket that goes below my waist covering the back pockets of my coveralls that has a bee mask netting soft helmet attached that I flip over my head and zip shut.  The zippers are covered with Velcro patches that hide any holes that could allow entry to my person by an angry yellow jacket.  Lastly, I pull on long gloves that go past my elbow and contain very thick, soft leather that covers my fingers and hands.  I look like a space man. 

As I walk in the yard toward the five gallon bucket and black garbage bag I did not see where the nest had been.  The bag had dozens of bees crawling on it and as I attempted to move it with my foot several became airborne and lit upon me.  I now looked into the bucket and saw the flower pot inside of it.  The dirt in the flower pot had a large circular opening and I recognized it as the entrance to the nest.  I dusted the hole and was immediately set upon by what seemed to be hundreds of yellow jackets.  I was apparently the last straw to their very bad day.

I slowly backed away from the bucket and was amazed at the buzzing sound that now engulfed me.  Everywhere I looked yellow jackets were engaged in stinging me the latest intruder.  They were between my fingers, on my mask, my arms, legs, shoes, just everywhere.  What bothered me the most was the buzzing and movement of the wrathful insects on my head.

Not one of their stingers found a way into my flesh.  I was most thankful.

I slowly continued to back away from the bucket and slowly turned and walked towards my truck.  I still had dozens of “BEES” attacking me.  I walked slowly past my truck and crossed the street.  Approximately fifteen minutes went past before I felt safe enough to unzip my helmet so I could get into the truck.   I started the truck up and drove two blocks away, parked, got out, and took off all my “bee stuff” except the coveralls.

I took the coveralls off at home turning them wrong side out as I did. One dead yellow jacket tumbled out onto the floor! 

The lesson in all of this is that stinging insects mean business when they come after you.  Please call a professional to rid your property of this pest.  What would have happened to the senior citizen if he had moved the flower pot?






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