Wasp Control for the Home
This is a diverse group of insects that includes paper wasps, mud daubers, cicada killers, and the more commonly encountered yellow jackets. Paper wasps and yellow jackets are commonly confused – both can be aggressive, so use caution if you encounter them.
What Do They Look Like?
Size: Yellow jackets are the most common in this group. Workers are about 3/8- to 5/8-inch long. An important descriptive distinction is that bees typically have hairy bodies while wasps do not have visible hairs on their bodies.
Color: The coloration varies by species, but the most commonly encountered yellow jackets in our area typically have abdomens that are banded with yellow and black. Their legs are yellow in color.
Characteristics: Yellow jackets are social insects whose colonies peak in size in the late summer or very early fall. Like most other social insects, the workers tend to the food gathering, nest repairs, and protection of the colony. Most yellow jackets are ground-nesting; however, they may also be found in building voids, in shrubs, bushes, sheds, and garages (places that are generally undisturbed). Nest size will vary from 1000 to 4000 workers at the peak.
Scientific Classification: Various species
Class: Insecta; Order: Hymenoptera; Family: Most commonly, Vespidae
The common yellow jacket (Vespula vulgaris) is found throughout most of the U.S., while V. maculifrons is common east of the Great Plains. The German yellow jacket (V. germanica) occurs throughout most of the U.S., except in the far south.
What Do They Eat?
Most wasp workers sting and paralyze live prey including spiders, caterpillars, flies, and other insects. The prey is then brought to the nest to feed developing colony members. Workers also forage on sweet liquids, human food scraps, and other sources of protein.
Workers live less than a year and will die once the weather turns cold; however, there are species found in the Western states that will live more than one year. The queen will seek a sheltered overwintering site and then re-emerge in the spring to begin a new colony. There are many factors that affect the health and success of a colony. For example, heavy rains in the spring are thought to adversely affect the survival of ground-nesting yellow jacket colonies.
The best way to detect wasp activity is to inspect for the presence of nests or activity of the workers as they come and go. When a colony within a building wall void gets large, you may be able to hear the noise from within a room. Be very cautious around yellow jackets, since they are known to be more aggressive in the fall.