Vespula pensylvanica, or the “western yellow jacket,” is the most hazardous wasp species, and the most abundant yellow jacket species in the western United States. With the exception of the common paper wasp, the western yellow jacket is the most commonly managed stinging insect pest in the country, and they are well known for establishing ground nests in residential yards and in recreational areas where humans often disturb colonies unknowingly. When western yellow jacket colonies become disturbed, they generally emerge from their nests and inflict repeated stings on those who are unlucky enough to be nearest to them.
Most people who are attacked by yellow jackets survive, but around one percent of the population is allergic to yellow jacket venom, and for these individuals yellow jacket attacks are often deadly. Those who have an allergy to yellow jacket venom are likely to experience a potentially fatal episode of anaphylactic shock in response to only a few stings. More than 500,000 individuals are rushed to the emergency room every year in response to yellow jacket envenomation incidents, and along with bees, yellow jackets are the deadliest insects in the US.
In addition to their aggression toward humans, yellow jackets are considered pests due to their habit of scavenging for human foods, particularly sweet-tasting foods within residential garbage and recycle bins. Western yellow jackets are also well known for interrupting cookouts and picnics due to their ability to smell sweet foods from long distances. This alarming behavior is generally exhibited by yellow jackets during the fall when they seek out alternative food sources in response to the growing scarcity of their insect food sources. There is no easy way to control yellow jackets, but traps with heptyl butyrate are attractive to western yellow jackets. Yellow jackets also have a strong appetite for meats, and it is now believed that adding canned chicken juice to hydrogel bait can effectively reduce yellow jacket populations around homes.
Have you ever attempted to control yellow jacket pests around your home?