Buying Guide

How to Get Rid of Yellow Jackets

Identifying: Yellow Jackets vs Bees
Close up of a yellow jacket.

Yellow jackets are a type of wasp that typically live in the ground, although there are a few varieties that also build nests in eaves and crevices of homes. Yellow jackets are extremely aggressive insects that are drawn mainly to sugary liquids and meats. Each insect stings multiple times and injects venom into its victim.

Bees and yellow jackets appear similar at first glance, but yellow jackets are smaller than bees and have narrow mid-sections where bees do not. Additionally, while honeybees and bumblebees are excellent pollinators, yellow jackets are somewhat less so. They do not often visit flowers, and their exteriors are much less hairy than that of bees, meaning they neither pick up nor spread much pollen except incidentally. Typically, bees are also much less aggressive than yellow jackets. Both honeybees and bumblebees will only sting defensively, while yellow jackets are easily provoked and attacks are often triggered by sound or vibrations. They attack in swarms and will give chase over long distances if they feel threatened. 

How to Get Rid of Yellow Jacket Nests
Someone spraying a yellow jacket nest.

Try to find out where yellow jackets are nesting, as location makes a difference in which kind of treatment is more effective. Knowing this information will help you in getting rid of yellow jackets.

  • If you see a lone yellow jacket, try to follow at a discrete distance and see where it goes. Yellow jackets are not solitary; if you spot one, an entire colony won't be far away.
  • Don protective clothing - long sleeves, pants, face and eye protection, no exposed skin - and carefully walk the property.  Listen for buzzing sounds as an active yellow jacket colony can contain hundreds of insects and the noise this makes will be distinct.
  • If you locate a nest, try to determine how large the nest is and where the entry and exit points are. There will likely be a few sentry yellow jackets flying around the openings. 
  • Only treat yellow jacket nests just after dusk or just before sunrise.  The low visibility will make it harder for the insects to locate you to sting, and at these times the whole colony is more likely to be in residence and at rest. 
  • Whether observing a nest or doing yellow jacket removal, be sure to have a clear escape path away from the area to a safe spot.
  • Once you've mapped out an escape path, you can use traps and baits to get rid of yellow jackets for good. And that's how to get rid of a yellow jacket nest!
Yellow Jacket Traps and Bait
Yellow jacket pesticides.

There are a range of yellow jacket pest control options that you can use depending on what methods you are most comfortable with, including traps, baits, sprays and foams.

Spray treatments can be effective individual yellow jacket killers and can help destroy small to medium-sized colonies. Sprays are especially convenient when dealing with nests that have been built on structures around the house. When the nest is easily visible, a foaming aerosol will both cover the openings and expand into the nest to trap and kill the yellow jackets.

  • Choose an aerosol with a long-range jet spray that will allow you to stand back from the nest and still be effective. You may need more than one container of your chosen insecticide to completely saturate the area.
  • Spray the exit and entrance openings of the nest for one minute until the areas are thoroughly soaked.
  • Move the spray in widening circles around the nest walls.
  • Directly spray any escaping insects before they can take flight.
  • Wait a day and check the nest for activity again. Repeat treatment as needed.

From cookouts to playdates, any summer outdoor activity that might feature food or drink is at risk for insect invasions. Placing traps can help keep yellow jackets from crashing your party.

  • Most traps come with chemical lures. If bait is needed, a small amount of meat will best draw yellow jackets during late spring and early summer. Sweet lure such as fruit juice will work better in late summer and fall.
  • Hang up bait stations or traps in areas near the colony, but well away from areas where people or pets will be.
  • Check traps and refresh baits every few days.

The aggressive nature of the yellow jacket can be used against the insect in your quest for yellow jacket removal. Hang an electric bug zapper near the yellow jacket colony or, if you can do so safely, place one near the entrance of a ground colony. The hum emitted by the device will cause sound and vibration that the insects will interpret as an intrusion. When they come to attack the device, many will be killed by the electric shock. While this method will not kill the entire colony on its own, it can be used in conjunction with other methods to great effect.

Safety: Follow all manufacturer's instructions and do not spray near water sources, wells or any areas where food will be stored or consumed.

Prevention Methods
A trashcan full of trash.
  • Keep outdoor trash cans clean and sealed to limit yellow jacket foraging.
  • Store pet food or animal feed in tightly closed containers.
  • Try to avoid outdoor areas where you note yellow jacket activity.
  • If you plan to do any yard maintenance, carefully inspect the area before beginning work to be sure there are no nests nearby.
  • Avoid using overly floral body or hair products if camping or spending a lot of time outdoors as the scent can be a yellow jacket attractant.
How to Treat a Yellow Jacket Sting
Close up of a hand that was stung by a pest.

If you get stung by a yellow jacket, here are the steps you can take to allievate the pain.

  • Wash the sting site with soap and water.
  • Use a cold pack on the affected area to reduce the pain.
  • Apply a topical antihistamine on the affected area.
  • If the topical application doesn't seem to help much, take an oral antihistamine to further relieve any pain, swelling or itching.

The yellow jacket's aggressiveness makes it one of the more hazardous types of insects. Carefully implement DIY elimination methods and consider contacting a professional to get rid of yellow jackets around your home, especially with large ground-level nests.