How To Find A Yellow Jacket Nest
If yellow jackets are harassing your family or your pets, you’ll need to get them under control, but you may not know where to address the root of the problem. In this article, we’ll teach you how to find a yellow jacket nest so that you can eliminate the yellow jacket nests in your area should you choose to do so.
Before you can learn how to locate a yellow jacket nest, you’ll need to learn how far yellow jackets can travel from their nest.
How Far Do Yellow Jackets Travel From Their Nest?
Yellow jackets can travel as far as one or two thousand feet from their nest. In some circumstances, yellow jackets can go as far as a mile from their nest. This means that most of the time, you won’t need to look very far to find the problematic nest.
What Does A Yellow Jacket Nest Look Like?
Yellow jacket nests look like the nests of any other wasp: papered amalgamations of honeycombed cells. Typically, yellow jacket nests have few or no wasps flying around the outside of the nest, although you may find one or two hanging around near the entrance.
Importantly, yellow jacket nests are smaller and more tubular than honey bee nests. If a nest is larger than a basketball or seems to contain more than a dozen insects, it probably isn’t a nest of yellow jacket wasps whatsoever.
Likewise, if you find a nest that appears to be empty during a warm season, it may not be a yellow jacket nest.
Yellow jacket nests are infrequently reused from year to year, so if you see a nest that seems to be a yearly source of pests, you’re probably working with a different species.
Types of Yellow Jacket Nests
Yellow jackets live in several different types of nests. These nest types include nests in trees, nests on the ground, and nests in human-created structures. Every kind of nest is easy to find if you know where to look.
Arboreal nests are the most common type of yellow jacket nests. Arboreal nests are typically halfway up mid-sized trees in coniferous and deciduous forests. Most of the time, yellow jacket wasps build their nests in the crook between the trunk and a branch.
This means that you won’t need to crane your head to find a yellow jacket nest most of the time. Most of the nests will be slightly out of arm’s reach, so don’t look too high or too low while you’re walking around a forested area.
Arboreal nests can sometimes also be found in holes in tree trunks, so don’t forget to check there.
Similarly, you can sometimes find yellow jacket nests in the upper branches of a tree that is in an older forest where there are few low-level branches.
However, if you find a nest that is located along a branch hanging down rather than between the crook formed by the branch and the trunk, it probably isn’t a yellow jacket nest.
Some yellow jackets also build their nests in the ground near the base of trees. These nests look like small caves made of paper which burrow into the ground. The question of how to find a yellow jacket nest in the soil is more complicated than finding an arboreal nest.
The most important clue that there is a nearby terrestrial yellow jacket nest is that there will be several low-flying wasps. Wasps that live in terrestrial nests do not necessarily gain much altitude after leaving the nest, nor do they maintain a high altitude while cruising toward their destination like wasps from arboreal nests.
Terrestrial yellow jacket nests sometimes have leaf litter, which is accumulated over the top of the paper of the nest. While it may be challenging to identify, try to see humps of accumulated leaf litter, which are higher than the surrounding ground.
Nests In Structures
Yellow jackets love to nest in structures, which approximate the arboreal conditions that they enjoy. This means that yellow jackets often create their nests in light fixtures outside of houses where the installation connects to the side of the house.
Similarly, yellow jackets nest on roofs where there are chimneys that form a small crook with the slats of the roof, much like in a tall tree.
Yellow jackets also make nests along gutters, especially where gutters turn at right angles and form a convenient nook with the side of the house. If there is a narrow space between the drain and the house, there’s a good chance that yellow jackets can potentially make a nest there, even if there is nothing to support the underneath of the nest.
In rare situations, you may also find that yellow jackets can set up shop inside of a chimney or overhanging roof tile, but on the whole, they prefer locations where they can derive at least some support from the structure underneath.
Finding The Nest Near You
Following an errant wasp back to the nest probably isn’t a good strategy. Instead, inspect your surroundings and determine which of the three nest locations is the most likely to be the home of the wasps which you’re observing.
If you live in a forested or rural area, you may be out of luck. The abundance of potential habitats for yellow jackets in rural or wooded areas will make it so that you have to examine a plethora of locations before finding a nest.
Furthermore, rural areas are likely to have colonies of other swarming insects like bees, making it more difficult to discriminate between yellow jackets and other species that aren’t of interest.
If you live in a suburban area, check your home’s exterior light fixtures and where your gutters are vertical. If you live in a rural area, look at nearby trees, giving special attention to holes in tree trunks where wasps may reside.
Remember not to agitate the bees when you find their nest until you’re ready to clear the nest out all at once. Be sure to keep your pets at home when you’re removing the nest.
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