It’s summertime here in the ‘Burgh – time for pool parties, family reunions, and relaxing in the sun – not dodging yellow jackets.
What it’s definitely NOT time for is a swarm of dangerous yellow jackets turning a fun party into a constant vigil for aggressive insects, or the sanctuary of your yard into a health hazard.
What do yellow jackets look like?
Yellow jackets bear a resemblance to several other species of flying insects, some of which are relatively harmless or even beneficial, so it’s important to identify your winged visitors before deciding what to do about them.
Yellow jackets are about an inch long, they can often be seen scavenging for food around garbage cans and picnics, and they tend to nest below ground, sometimes in rodents’ burrows. If you see a lot of yellow-striped insects emerging from the ground, they’re probably yellow jackets.
Yellow jackets aren’t as fuzzy as honeybees and bumblebees, and they’re slimmer, with very skinny waists. They have more black on their bodies than honeybees do, and their yellow markings are brighter.
These insects are very territorial, and they’ll usually try to sting anyone who gets within a few feet of their hive.
This can become a huge problem, because by late summer, their colonies can contain thousands of individuals. They are easily provoked, attack in large numbers, can sting multiple times, and will chase a perceived threat for long distances.
Even if you don’t go near their nests, sounds and vibrations from things like lawn care equipment can provoke an attack from surprisingly far away.
What happens if a yellow jacket stings you?
If you get stung by a yellow jacket, the combination of the skin puncture and the injection of venom can cause swelling, a feeling of heat, and red inflammation that can last for several hours. It may also cause itching, and will almost inevitably be painful.
You may also experience nausea and fatigue for several days after the attack, though vomiting is unlikely unless there were numerous stings within a short period of time.
As long as you’re only seeing localized effects, first aid is usually enough. However, while most people are not allergic to wasp stings, the severity of allergic victims’ symptoms can vary, and allergic reactions can become fatal within minutes.
Symptoms of an allergic reaction to yellow jacket stings can include raised red bumps, or hives, on the skin, as well as narrowing of the bronchial passages, and swelling of the epiglottis (the flap of cartilage at the base of the tongue).
This swelling can block the airway and suffocate the victim, and the combination of stress and respiratory difficulty can cause a breathing problem-related heart attack called cardiorespiratory arrest.
If you see hives or breathing problems, administer an EpiPen and seek emergency help immediately.
Major medical problems can also arise if you’re stung numerous times within a short period, and the large dose of venom produces an immune response. The symptoms present as a combination of fever, vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, headaches, fainting, and convulsions, and they may also include hives, though this is less likely than it is with an allergic reaction.
If a toxic reaction is triggered, your body may produce antibodies to the venom, creating a sting allergy that makes future attacks even more dangerous.
All in all, yellow jackets can pose a serious threat if they establish themselves in a well-traveled area, and it’s important to prevent or remove them before they can become a large, dangerous swarm.
What are the best methods of yellow jacket prevention?
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Here are some ways to make your home less appealing to yellow jackets:
- Keep your bushes and trees trimmed. This will help to deter not only yellow jackets, but other types of stinging insects as well.
- Get rid of burrowing rodents that create homes for yellow jackets.
- Avoid leaving food, trash and recyclables exposed outside for any length of time, as this provides an attractive food source for the winged pests.
- Seal any cracks, holes and crevices around your home to prevent yellow jackets from making a home in them.
- Keep your trash and recycling in covered bins, as far from your home and yard as possible.
If your yellow jacket prevention methods fail, and the insects have begun to establish themselves in an area too well-traveled to ignore, there are several do-it-yourself options you can try, such as smothering them, boiling or drowning them with hot or soapy water, or insecticide sprays.
While these can be effective, bear in mind that any yellow jackets you fail to trap and kill will come after you in a rage, which can result in a costly or even fatal medical emergency if you’re allergic or stung numerous times.
The safest – and, in many cases, the most cost-effective – option is to hire a professional exterminator.
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When yellow jacket prevention fails, we’re here to make sure that you and your family can enjoy your summer in peace and safety.
If you have a yellow jacket problem on your property, contact us today to get it eliminated.