Yellow Jackets – The Bee That Stings When You Step On It

As summer ages, and the season turns toward autumn we see one bee much more often than any other. Yellow jackets spend the whole summer growing babies, and suddenly there are so many of them flying around your yard that you step on them, and you don’t even know it.

Until the bee stings you that is.

In the spring you maybe see one of these bees here, and another one there. You don’t pay much attention to them because there just aren’t so many of them around. By the middle of summer you can’t miss them – they’re flying from flower to flower gathering nectar, and you don’t see many flowers without a bee crawling on it.

They get the nectar from the flower, and they carry it back to the nest to feed their young. That’s how their numbers suddenly seem so large. They have babies, nurse those babies to adult status, and send those young adults out for nectar to feed more babies.

By the end of summer yellow jackets are everywhere.

And if you don’t pay attention to them when you’re walking around the lawn you get stung.

These bees are helpful without a doubt. They carry pollen to help the plants grow. Helpful, that is, until they invade your space, and start stinging you.

They build their nests in some very inconvenient places sometimes, don’t they.

Once as a pest control technician I made a scheduled visit to an elementary school. It was one of the accounts that I inspected each month. As I walked up to the door this particular morning late in summer, I noticed a lot of yellow jacket activity around the front door.

It was around ten in the morning, the air was warming up around the door as it faced the sun, and those bees were just starting their foraging day.

I watched those bees for a little while until I found out where they had their nest, and I treated it so the yellow jackets wouldn’t sting any kids. I didn’t get any reports from that school about any stings, so I guess I found that nest in time to prevent painful incidents.

I wasn’t always that fortunate.

The places where yellow jackets build their nest vary. The one I just mentioned was inside a crack in the brick wall of the school – just above the door. If I hadn’t caught that nest early there was only a matter of time before the bees started stinging the students as they came and went.

I treated a lot of nests inside the walls of houses while I was active in pest control. They trouble us the most when a nest in the wall not only has access to the outside, but also when the bees can get inside the home through cracks in the inner walls.

Most people don’t find it much fun to have bees buzzing around all over the house.

These stinging insects also have a habit of building their nests in the ground. They tunnel in through a hole they create about the size of a nickel. We don’t notice nests in the ground so quickly because they’re mostly out away from the main traffic areas.

But sometimes they happen where kids play. I had one school with an open field that the school used mostly for parking during special events. One day a teacher decided to use the field for the class recreation time. Twenty three kids got stung when they went running across, and around a nest.

When I got the call about the incident I headed straight to the school, and found three different nests in that field. The field wasn’t on my usual inspection route for the school, so the bees had plenty of freedom to grow their babies – until they stung those kids.

The only way to deal with yellow jackets is by treating their nest. And when this bee starts stinging, you must know how to find the nest before you can treat it.


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