If you’ve ever been out for a picnic or you have a yard you use for small gatherings, you may have encountered yellow jackets and, despite using the best yellow jacket trap, they still may find a way to reach some of the delicious foods you’ve prepared.
These wasps come with both advantages and disadvantages and if you’re interested in finding out more about them, from what they eat to how fast they can fly, you might want to check out this post for some of the most important facts on yellow jackets.
How to identify yellow jackets
Buzzing insects such as yellow jackets can easily be mistaken for hornets, given their physical similarities. However, knowing what you deal with calls for a bit of knowledge regarding yellow jackets. If you identify them correctly, you will then know the appropriate steps to take.
One of the easiest things to help you separate them from other species of wasps is the pattern found on their body and its color. Just as the name suggests it, they have alternating yellow and black patterns that easily set them apart from other wasps.
With a body that is 0.39-0.62-inch long and wings that are as long as their body, these large native wasps have no hair, which makes it more difficult for them to transfer pollen in large quantities. Female yellow jackets feature six such patterns whereas males have seven of them.
More often than not, people tend to place all wasps in the same class yet there are various characteristics that set them apart as well as unique wasp behaviors. As far as yellow jackets are concerned, they are social insects but they build nests instead of hives and they do so underground. This may not only seem unusual but also adds more danger as, if you are unaware of such a nest in your yard, you could easily trigger an attack.
Their nests can hold up to 5,000 wasps at a time and the responsibilities of a nest’s inhabitants are clearly defined. The queen bee is the only female that lays eggs whereas the other females living in the nest are responsible for providing care and food for the queen and its larvae. Male yellow jackets are also present for mating purposes.
Many of us tend to associate wasps with a nectar-base diet yet this species stands out through its eating habits as well. While they do feast on fruits and flower nectar, yellow jackets are into protein-rich foods, too, and thus feed on insects, caterpillars, and flies.
The life cycle of yellow jackets lasts from spring to fall and, if winter still finds some of them alive, they don’t live too long since the food supplies they need to survive are scarce during the cold season.
However, their eating habits depend not only on the time of the year but also on what happens inside the nest. Thus, when the yellow jackets have larvae to take care of, they will look for and have foods that are rich in protein such as flies and caterpillars. For the rest of the time, if possible, they will feast on sugars, flower nectar, and even carbonated drinks.
The female workers can fly even up to 1,000 feet to find food. They can get aggressive when in search of food, especially when the population of a nest grows significantly and food supplies are scarce.
This is when they can actually steal honey from bees and they interfere more with humans and their food. However, they can still find your food attractive if left exposed even if none of the above applies.
Why do yellow jackets sting
They’re wasps, so they sting. What makes things even worse when it comes to yellow jackets is that they have a smooth stinger and can sting multiple times, which, obviously, will hurt more. They will sting when they feel that their security is jeopardized.
Since they are very protective of their nest, yellow jackets will sting if you approach their nest. However, it is not uncommon for them to sting even if they are not attacked, so for no apparent reason. Therefore, utmost attention should be paid when they are near you as you never know what they might do.
How fast can yellow jackets fly
Wasps, just like bees, are not created for speed and their goal is not to chase down animals. However, as we’ve mentioned earlier, they will use their sting to protect their nest. In case they attack you and you want to know if it is better to run and thus if you can actually outrun them, learn that when a wasp approaches you, it is recommended to stay still.
You should try to protect your face and head since these are the areas wasps target most often. Some say that “playing dead” simply does not work when it comes to wasps, though, and they will still sting even if you embrace that approach. So, if you do need to run, learn that wasps including yellow jackets can reach up to 30 mph yet that happens in the best of cases.
Still, there are so many factors involved when it comes to getting rid of a wasp trying to attack you. Wind direction has a lot to say, therefore, sometimes, outrunning a wasp can be an easy task whereas, in cases that involve very hungry and aggressive wasps, that might turn out to be quite an adventure.
How to avoid yellow jackets
It is important to know what to do if a wasp stings yet it is also highly important to take a few safety measures and minimize the risk of having your yard turned into a yellow jacket playground. There are a few simple things you can do to avoid them and their stings.
First of all, try not to leave any food that could attract them uncovered. Even if you don’t have a picnic and you’re just relaxing out with one of your favorite drinks, it is best to use containers that come with lids. Dispose of them once you’ve finished the beverage.
Cover your garbage bins with heavy lids that can be tightly closed. Try to avoid strong perfumes and bright clothes, especially during their peak season.
Since wasps feast on rotten and overripe fruits, make sure your yard is free of such food. Collect these fruits into a sealed plastic bag where the wasps can’t get. Use yellow jacket traps. The market now offers various models for different needs and preferences. You can also try pesticides for a more complex approach. Just make sure you use them as instructed.
Cover rodent burrows, if any, because yellow jackets can use them to build their nest. Remember that you should always use protective gear when carrying out such tasks. Most people who get stung by wasps recover quickly but if you’ve been unfortunate enough to get stung and it hurts, it is always best to see your doctor to get the right treatment.