Yellow jackets are a common pest in the Atlanta, GA area — even our beloved Georgia Tech mascot Buzz is a yellow jacket. But last week, while a Georgia police officer was in pursuit of a suspect in the Brookhaven, GA area, the officer was stung over 100 times by a swarm of yellow jackets. The officer suffered a severe allergic reaction to the wasp stings and the attack left the officer hospitalized. Yellow jackets were later found in the officers shirt, pants, and mouth.
This recent attack reminds us of the dangers yellow jackets pose, particularly to those individuals that are allergic. Truly Nolen of Atlanta finds it important to share information about this type of wasp with our customers. We want to let you know what you can do to eliminate yellow jackets and their nests if you find them in or around your home.
Yellow jackets are a type of wasp. Wasps in general make up a wide range of insects with over 30,000 known species. Yellow jackets are often mistaken for bees, given their black and yellow body segments. However, you can typically identify yellow jackets by their pointed lower abdomens and thin waists. Yellow jackets have two wings that measure about 1.5 inches in length.
Social hunters, they typically live in colonies that contain workers, queens, and male drones. Workers and male drones both measure about ½ inch in length, however the queens are slightly larger (¾ inch).
Yellow jacket colonies are active for a year, with the queen emerging in late spring or early summer to choose a nesting site in which to lay her eggs. Yellow jackets are often considered a nuisance because nesting sites are often found close to the home. Generally, yellow jackets prefer to nest in a location that provides shelter from the elements. Some of the yellow jackets favorite nesting sites are under porch steps, along sidewalks and walkways, at the base of trees, and at the corners of buildings. The queen will often utilize a void in a wall or low-lying bush in which to create her nest.
The queen lives through the fall, constantly laying eggs inside the nest and feeding the larvae for a period of 18 to 20 days, until they reach maturity. Through this period the colony expands rapidly, reaching a maximum of 4,000 to 5,000 workers and containing 10,000 to 15,000 cells by the late summer. After the initial larvae mature, they take on the responsibility of feeding and caring for the other larvae. These infertile female workers forage for food and defend the growing colony as the queen continues to lay her eggs, which she will continue to do until her death. Once the colony has reached its peak size, new males and new queens are produced. These mature fertile females and males will leave the existing colony to reproduce, leaving their existing home abandoned.
Even if yellow jackets are proving to be a nuisance for you around your home, they are actually considered to be beneficial to the environment as they are responsible for eating other nuisance insects like beetles, grubs, and flies!
Yellow jacket infestations can be fairly common in residential areas. If you notice a few yellow jackets flying near your home, this might be a sign that that a nest is located nearby. Careful inspection of your home should be conducted in order to determine the nests location and determine steps to safely eliminate it. Nests are usually small in size but if left undisturbed, some can grow to be very large and house enormous populations.
To get rid of a yellow jacket infestation special precautions must be taken to prevent being stung, as yellow jackets will sting if they feel threatened. A severe allergic reaction can occur in individuals who are sensitive, as we saw in the case of the Brookhaven officer. Truly Nolen does not recommend the use of do-it-yourself products or attempting to remove any wasp nest on your own. For your safety, consult a qualified pest control professional. At Truly Nolen our trained technicians apply a fast acting natural product to the nest that works quickly to eliminate the colony all while keeping our customers safe.
The best way to avoid a wasp sting to is avoid both wasps and their nests. Wasps will usually only sting if they feel threatened or when their nest is disturbed but some will sting if they are swatted. Take extra care while eating and drinking outdoors because it is common for wasps to climb into soda cans and sting. If a sting does occur, the symptoms are usually short-lasting. The initial burn of the sting usually fades to tenderness and swelling. Wasp stings can be extremely dangerous for those allergic to them. If at any time you feel that the sting is serious, seek medical help as soon as possible.