Yellow Jacket Wasps
Summary: Bees are buzzing. Wasps are stinging and you're trying to have a quiet picnic. Pest control 101 tells you that food in the open during late summer is an invitation to dance with angry insects.
Trying to picnic in late summer can be hazardous to your health. I'm not talking about heat stroke from ninety degree temperatures and humidity you can cut with a knife. Nor, am I speaking of getting food poisoning from that potato salad that has been baking too long in the sun. I'm referring to the health hazard caused by nature's little stinging machines, the Yellow Jacket wasp.
As summer comes to an end and the kids are preparing to return to school, you decide to have one more family gathering. “Let's get everyone together for an “end of summer” picnic.” Unbeknownst to you,
Paravespula germanica, the German yellow jacket, is planning its own “end of summer” event on the same patch of land where you hope to spread you blanket.
You need to know that from August through October, yellow jackets build up in large populations and scavenge for human food (carbonated beverages, cider, juices, ripe fruits and vegetables, candy, ice cream, fish, ham, hamburgers, hot dogs, etc.) All worker yellow jackets die with the first frost, so they are in a frenzy to collect food for the hive that will help the over-wintering queen survive. By the end of summer a yellow jacket colony can reach a maximum size of 4,000 to 5,000 workers and a nest of 10,000 to 15,000 cells.
Knowing all this, if you are still determined to have that picnic, keep these tidbits of information in mind. Keep food covered until eaten, especially ripe fruit and soft drinks. Any scent of food caused by outdoor cooking, eating, feeding pets or garbage cans will attract many bees and wasps Yellow jackets have a lance-like stinger without barbs and can sting repeatedly. This insect is bold, aggressive and, if provoked, can sting repeatedly and painfully. Should a yellow jacket wasp fly near you or land on your body, never swing or strike at it or run rapidly away. Quick movements often provoke attacks. When a wasp is near you, remain calm and stationary for a while. Then, move very slowly away from where the wasps are swarming and avoid stepping on the ground nest.
Wasps and bees can fly about six to seven miles per hour so humans can outrun them. However, by the time you start running you may incur numerous painful stings caused by your rapid movement. Never strike, swing or crush a wasp or bee against your body since it could incite nearby yellow jackets into a frenzied attack. Wasp venom contains a chemical "alarm pheromone," released into the air, signaling guard wasps to come and sting whomever and whatever gets in their way.
Bon Appétit and don't say I didn't warn you.
Click here to watch my short video on how to control wasps.