How dangerous are yellow jackets?

July 6, 2021

Yellow jackets are commonly found in just about every backyard and outdoor dining area during the summer and early fall months. They are part of the insect category “stinging insects” and have a reputation for being very aggressive. A yellow jacket sting can be painful and very dangerous.

What are yellow jackets?

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Yellow jackets get their name from the black and yellow bands that appear on their abdomens. Most have these markings, yet some appear with white or red bands. Often confused with wasps and hornets, yellow jackets are much more aggressive and territorial. Here are some fun facts about yellow jackets:

  • Yellow jackets are carnivorous! They feed their young on other insects.
  • They do not reuse their nests. Instead, they build a new nest every year.
  • They are known to build nests in the ground, under the eves, or in other protected areas.
  • Aerial yellowjackets build hanging nests and usually do not bother people unless you approach the nest, remove the nest or spray them.
  • Males do not have stingers and appear slightly different in color and striping.
  • Female yellow jackets can both sting and bite, and they do not lose their stinger. Their stingers are smooth, un-barbed, and can be removed and used to re-sting repeatedly.
  • They are inactive at night…. hmm, good sleepers!
  • White-faced or bald-faced hornets actually belong to the yellow jacket family.

Do yellow jackets provide any environmental benefit?

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Bees in a homeowner’s tree.

Yes, they are beneficial insects. According to Mother Earth News,

Yellow jackets wasps feed their young liquefied insects, with caterpillars, flies and spiders comprising the largest food groups in the yellow jacket diet during most of the summer. In late summer, yellow jackets start looking for flower nectar and other sources of sugar, which are necessary nutrients for the next season’s queens. Meanwhile, fewer young are being raised in the nests, which leaves many individuals with little to do. At this point, yellow jackets become an obnoxious presence outdoors, whether they are trying to steal your sandwich or swarming over apple cores in your compost.

Why are yellow jackets so dangerous?

In addition to being aggressive, they are equipped with stingers that are smooth and without a barb to sting and withdraw the stinger from a human/victim without any damage to the stinger. Therefore, the bald-faced hornet can repeatedly sting, injecting the victim with a substantial amount of venom.

Their stings are extremely painful, and you may require medical attention. In most cases, ice and acetaminophen or ibuprofen can lessen the pain. However, in some cases, an allergic reaction may occur, and should you experience shortness of breath, tightness in your chest, dizziness/lightheadedness, or fainting, please dial 911 immediately.

What are yellow jackets attracted to?

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A close-up macro photograph of a group of four yellow jacket wasps eating a red apple with a bite out of it laying on the grass.

According to, Like many other flying insects, adult yellowjackets feed on sugary substances such as flower nectar, fruit, and the occasional soda when they find an open can. What makes yellowjackets unique is that they consume protein in their larval stage. Workers bring insects and other types of meat back to the nest as food for the larvae. Most homeowners consider yellowjackets a pest, but their diet actually makes them an important part of garden pest control.

What smell do yellow jackets dislike?

Mint! They do not like the strong smell of mint. So plant mint around your deck or yard in planters or boxes and naturally help repel them. Lemongrass is another herb that these insects find repulsive. And cucumbers in your picnic salad are beneficial to your health and, as a bonus, keeps the yellow jackets away- the acidic property of cucumbers turns the yellow jackets away!

How do I protect my home and family from yellow jackets?

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Safe nest removal by a professional is always the best choice.

Like most aggressive pests and nuisance wildlife, it is always best to use a professional pest control service. The nest can be as large as a basketball, and with over 400 residents, you do not want to tackle that project without experience and personal protection.

Our technicians are trained in safe hive and nest removal methods, causing no harm to the homeowner. Funny thing: these aggressive pests are active during the day and sleep at night. It would not be unheard of for the nest to be removed when the nest’s residents were sound asleep!

Our process is quite simple. Accurate Pest Control delivers:

  • Detailed inspection- Our trained technicians will inspect the property for nests and determine the best cause of action for treatment.
  • Treatment and removal- whether underground, aerial or inside walls or hidden spaces, we will carefully treat and remove the nests and colony.
  • Ongoing Monitoring- Let’s discuss our treatment plans and find the one best suited for your needs. Bald-faced or white-faced hornets’ treatment can be combined with other pest control services such as carpenter ants, ticks, termites, etc. 

Be safe and keep your family safe.

Contact us today for a home or business inspection, and again, please do not attempt to remove a nest on your own. Despite being a pest control service, we advocate preserving the pollinators such as honeybees or bumblebees.

Enjoy the summer and ‘bee’ safe!

Resources: Pest World, AZ Cooperative Ext./Backyard Gardener

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