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Expert: Yellow jacket swarms swell this summer

Posted August 1, 2011
Updated August 2, 2011

—  A Triangle insect expert said Monday that the weather this year has provided optimum conditions for a summer buzzing with busy yellow jackets, ready to swarm and sting in defense of their territory.

"If it's too dry, they don't survive. If there's too much rain, they don't survive. This year's been right," said Tad Bassett, an exterminator with Triangle Wildlife Removal, a pest control company based in Raleigh.

Bassett said yellow jacket populations are higher this year than in the last five years and that homeowners should watch out for nests, which can easily blend into the ground.

"They look like little pancakes stacked in a hole," Bassett said, adding that more "pancake" shapes mean more yellow jackets.

Yellow jackets, which are often mistaken for bees but are actually in the wasp family, build intricate nests in the ground to protect their queen, and they're ready to fight to defend her, Bassett said. Expert: Yellow jacket swarms swell this summer Expert: Yellow jacket swarms swell this summer

Patty Miglarese found that out the hard way. Her husband was attacked by a swarm of yellow jackets when he stepped on a nest in the backyard of their Wake County home last summer.

"He ran from the back of the house all the way around to the front, ran into the front door, slammed the door behind him (and) ran into the bathroom," Miglarese said. "He still got stung several times. We killed about 20 yellow jackets in the house."

This year, when she found another nest in her yard, she didn't hesitate to call an exterminator.

"After you go through an incident like that, I don't think you fool around anymore," Miglarese said.

Some people successfully exterminate bees and wasps on their own, Bassett said, but it's imperative to be careful and thorough. Use a spray that shoots 10 to 20 feet, making sure to saturate the nest, and always have a pre-planned escape route, he said.

Insect stings can cause serious and potentially life-threatening allergic reactions in some people.


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  • Dixiecrat Aug 3, 2011

    Take a dome shaped grill lid (or even an old glass mason jar if you're done with your likker), spray some ether (starter fluid) into it and cover their hole, making sure its tight. You'll suffocate the nest in a few days, and the stragglers won't come back. Watch to see if they have a back door, and hit it the same way.

  • BrightLight Aug 2, 2011

    When I was growing up in Eastern NC, Yellow Jackets were one thing, Ground Bees were another. Yellow Jackets were yellow-jacketed but looked like a wasp. Ground Bees were yellow-jacketed but were smaller and more compact than wasps. They were shaped more like honeybees. The Yellow Jackets built nests up in the tops of outbuildings, shelters, etc. They were pretty aggressive and pretty painful. We kids would shoot their nests with plastic water guns filled with gas. This always worked well until the plastic water gun melted from the gas. Ground Bees made nests in the ground. They were less aggressive and less painful but they would sting you. At night we would pour gas down the little hole they made in the ground, back off, then throw a match on the gas. This burned out the hole, killed the bees and no more would use the hole. Now, in Wake County, I have more ground bees than I have seen here before. I get them out of my hummingbird feeder all the time(and let them go).

  • Con Amor brings luv and laughter Aug 2, 2011

    Hornest nest, we always soak a rag in gas and wrap it around the end of a long stick. Wait til it gets very dark outside, light the rag, hold it in front of the opening of the nest, and the hornest swarm out, flying into the light, and burning up. They ALL fly out, and only into the fire, never into the dark. Never had a nest continue to be active after this procedure.

  • valeta1969 Aug 2, 2011

    Somone mentioned earlier that they are attracted too the color blue. I guess that answers why my car is surrounded by them EVERY morning before I go too work...because my car is blue (light). I look at other cars near mine and they aren't surrounding them. Is there something I can put on my car too keep them away?

  • Con Amor brings luv and laughter Aug 2, 2011

    When I was a little girl (6 or 7 yrs old), I decided I would just close up the opening where the yellow jackets were flying in, with gravel from the driveway. I squated over the little hole with my handful of gravel and started shoving them in the hole.. I never did see where they made their escape, because I was blinded with stings all over my face, head, arms, my entire body! I remember running out of my flip flops trying to get back to the house. Daddy heard me hollerin & came runnin out & beat me (trying to kill the yellow jackets I suppose). I think I must have blacked out(Or gotten knocked out), because the next thing I remember I was in a cold tub of ice water being rubbed down with baking soda. Oh the things we do & remember from our childhood.

  • shortcake53 Aug 2, 2011

    Got my can and shovel and waiting for dark...... thanks for the tips!

  • working for deadbeats Aug 2, 2011

    I poored gas down the hole and around and kept it lit. Never got stung and I was making the globe warmer at the same time.

  • Homesteader79 Aug 2, 2011

    The time to spray is dusk or in the dark as they will not fly at night as they cannot see. (I was witness to an experiment in entomlogy class in college- we did this in a photography dark room). Happy slaying!!

  • timbo10.0 Aug 2, 2011

    I can't believe someone paid an exterminator to get rid of a next of Yellow Jackets. LOL.

    I had 4 nests last year and 1 this year. All you have to do is give the entrance a quick spray of hornet/wasp killer, take a shovel and dig up the nest, then spray the rest of the can. Boom, you're done. Never got stung once.

  • Avenger Aug 2, 2011

    My grandmother use to give a teaspoon of baking soda to neutralize the poison. She also put some on the sting sites, they do not leave their stinger like a bee. It always seem to work!