With fall just around the corner, the time when yellow jackets are at their most aggressive is fast approaching. To make matters worse, Alabama is experiencing unusually high yellow jacket populations this year. It’s important that people be on the lookout for yellow jackets and their nests.

Stinging

Yellow jackets are highly defensive and will attack anything that disturbs their nests.

“Unlike other stinging insects, yellow jackets have the ability to sting repeatedly,” said Xing Ping Hu, an Alabama Extension entomologist. “They do not lose their stinger, so each insect can sting repeatedly, and they generally attack in large numbers.”

When a yellow jacket stings, it tags the victim with an alarm pheromone that may last for hours. This pheromone makes the victim a potential target for other yellow jackets. This is why even a single sting is dangerous. When stung, some people may react differently than others.

“Reactions can be as severe as a life-threatening allergic reaction, where others can be only a sharp pain and burning sensation at the sting sites,” Hu said. “Depending on the severity of the stings and a person’s reaction, some may need to seek medical treatment.”

Be Alert

As a rule of thumb, never intentionally disturb a yellow jacket nest. This will only make them more defensive, and you run the risk of being stung. While yellow jackets will build aerial nests that are visible, the real danger lies in those nests hiding underground.

“Be alert to these ground nests when playing in the yard or mowing grass,” Hu said. “In case you run across a nest, carrying a can of wasp spray with you could help in the event of accidentally disturbing one.”

When mowing or doing yard work, wear protective clothes and shoes, including gloves, a hat and possibly even a face mask or bee veil.

Control

When treating ground nests, locate where the insects fly out and treat the nest early in the morning or after dark.

“Do not try to control the nest during the day,” Hu said. “Do the treatment either early in the morning before they come out or after dark when they go dormant.”

Hu said insecticidal dust products (containing carbaryl insecticide) are the preferred treatment formulations. Hand dusters and air dusters are the more common applicators. When using a hand duster, puff the dust inside the opening of the nest and leave the treatment area immediately. Hu added that homeowners can cover the nest opening with a large glass pan/cover to trap the yellow jackets inside the nest until they die.

“Do not return to the area for at least 24 hours,” she said. “You may need to repeat the dusting process about every three days until there are not wasps coming out of it.”

Hu warns that wasp and hornet aerosol sprays have limited or no use on eliminating an entire colony. For large colonies, call a licensed commercial pest control company to take care of the problem.

For more information on yellow jackets and other wasps, check out these Alabama Extension publications or contact the Etowah County Extension Office:

• Massive Yellow Jacket Nests Appearing Again In Alabama

• Massive Perennial Yellow Jacket Nest Located in Baldwin County

• Wasps: Watch Out This Summer

Upcoming Extension Programs

• Northeast Alabama 4-H Chick Chain Show and Auction: 11 a.m. Sept. 28, DeKalb County VFW Fairgrounds, Fort Payne

• Beef Systems Short Course for Northeast Alabama: 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Sept. 17, 19, 24 and 26, Sand Mountain Research and Extension Center, Crossville; multi-night lecture series covering the fundamentals of beef production geared for new and limited experience producers; $40 registration fee, participants will receive a copy of Extension’s recently updated “Alabama Beef Handbook”; topics include Forages and Nutrition, Herd Health and Reproduction, Record Keeping and Environmental Stewardship, Economics and Meat Science; register at https://bit.ly/2Zdd7V6; for more information, contact Landon Marks at mlm0013@auburn.edu or 256-706-0032.

• Rain Barrel Workshop: 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Nov. 1, Etowah County Extension Office; participants must register in advance and pay $40 to receive a rain barrel; call the Extension Office for more details

• Etowah/Cherokee County Master Gardener Class: Begins on Jan. 28; contact the Extension Office for more details or an application

• Enroll young people ages 9-18 in the 4-H program at www.alabama4h.com.

For more information on this topic and many others, contact the Etowah County Extension Office, 256-547-7936 or 3200 A W. Meighan Blvd., Gadsden. Amy Burgess is extension coordinator for the Etowah County Extension Office.