The appearance of yellowjackets is one sure sign fall is on its way. Actually these fairly small unpredictable, stinging pests have been around this summer feeding on other insects. Most of us simply haven’t noticed them.
So why do they seem to suddenly appear everywhere in late summer and early fall, and why are they so fierce? By fall, yellowjacket colonies have reached peak populations for the year. Plus, their usual food source of other insects has started to disappear, so yellowjackets are out searching for food. They’re especially attracted to unsealed garbage cans and sweet food items such as fruit and soft drinks.
Sanitation is one of the best ways to help control roaming yellowjackets out foraging for food. Use garbage cans with tight-fitting, preferably self-closing, lids and a plastic liner. Regularly empty and clean your garbage cans. Promptly remove and properly discard or bury apples, pears and other decomposing fruits that have fallen from trees. Always quickly clean up spills and put away leftovers, whether eating inside your home or outdoors. When eating outdoors, keep foods and beverages covered until you’re ready to consume them.
An excited yellowjacket in a half full can of soda you intend to drink is not a good thing.
You can repel yellowjackets from trash cans, outdoor tables and food preparation surfaces by using a solution of six ounces of household ammonia (not chlorine bleach) per gallon of water. Spray this solution in and around trash cans and sponge it onto the tables and surfaces.
If a nest is in a low-traffic area, you can wait and do nothing; yellowjackets, wasp and hornet colonies naturally die after the weather turns cold.
Extension publications of particular interest include Controlling Wasps, Hornets and Yellowjackets, Entfact 620, and Foraging Yellowjackets, EntFact 643 are on the web and available at the LaRue County Cooperative Extension Service.