How to Get Rid of Yellow Jackets for Good in 7 Simple Steps

Has your property been invaded by winged pests? It’s time to learn how to get rid of yellow jackets once and for all.
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A close-up of a yellow jacket.
Photo: istockphoto.com

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Project Overview

  • In many cases, homeowners will want to call a pro to handle yellow jacket removal due to the risk of being stung.
  • Some natural remedies, such as peppermint oil, an imitation nest, a protein bait, or a nest cover can help contain the nest until a pro arrives.
  • Small yellow jacket nests can be addressed using a wasp spray, yellow jacket traps, or an electronic bug zapper.
  • Homeowners can prevent yellow jackets from nesting by sealing tight spaces around the home and keeping lids tightly on garbage cans.

During the warmer months, many homeowners enjoy spending time outdoors. Although relaxing on a shaded deck with a good book and an ice-cold drink can be relaxing, it can quickly go south when insects start to enter the picture—and not always in a friendly manner. Yellow jacket bees, in particular, are a major nuisance in the summer.

Yellow jackets feature black and yellow (and occasionally white and red) markings, and can be especially nasty. Although this wasp species is generally smaller than most types of wasps, they are more aggressive.

Often a menace to homeowners’ properties, yellow jackets tend to nest in the ground where they build their colonies. Although there are a handful of ways to deter these pests, hiring a professional from one of the best pest control companies (such as Orkin or Terminix) is usually the best way to deal with yellow jacket removal. Here’s what homeowners will want to know about how to get rid of yellow jackets.

Time required: 24 hours (to ensure all pests have been eradicated)
Difficulty: Intermediate
Estimated cost: Average range of $325 to 450 for professional services; under $50 for DIY strategies

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How to Identify Yellow Jackets

close up of a yellow jacket climbing an overripe plum with dried grass in the background
Photo: istockphoto.com

It’s important for a homeowner to be able to properly identify pests (such as hornets vs. wasps) to accurately identify the best solution for getting rid of them. The methods for how to get rid of hornets will vary from how to get rid of yellow jackets. Similarly, if a homeowner is dealing with honeybees, they’ll want to hire one of the best bee removal services instead of trying to use remedies against yellow jackets.

Yellow jackets are any of 35 to 40 species of wasp (hornets are also a type of wasp). Generally yellow and black in color, some yellow jackets may feature white or red markings. The yellow jacket size is smaller compared to a bee, and they have a thinner “waist” that is more defined. These wasps also lack the long hind leg for carrying pollen and the amount of hair that bees have.

BeesYellow JacketsHornets
  • From the superfamily Apoidea and clade Anthophilia
  • Black/brown and yellow bands
  • Round in shape
  • Fuzzy appearance
  • ¼ to 1 inch in length
  • From the family Vespidae
  • Black and yellow bands (potentially with white or red marking)
  • Longer body and defined “waist”
  • Wings fold length-wise at rest
  • ⅜ to ⅝ inch in length
  • From the family Vespidae
  • Reddish brown heads and thoraxes with yellow-orange abdomens and brown bands
  • Slightly thicker “waist”
  • Up to 2 inches in length

Safety Considerations

  • If DIYing, wear as many layers of clothing as possible to protect from stings.
  • Have a well-thought-out escape route once you begin disrupting the nest that is free from items that may trip you, such as outdoor toys, lawn items, lawn furniture, and garden tools.
  • Consider leaving yellow jacket removal to the professionals, especially if someone in the household is allergic, to avoid being stung and risking an allergic reaction.
Yellow jacket nest removal can be dangerous
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STEP 1: Locate the nest.

If yellow jackets are buzzing about the property, it’s important for the resident to locate the source of the pests’ home. Whether this is an underground yellow jacket nest or a yellow jacket nest in a wall, knowing exactly where these wasps are hiding is going to help the residents avoid the area and prevent getting stung. Additionally, knowing the exact location of the nest will help when a pest control professional is involved so the homeowner can point to the problem areas.

STEP 2: Hire a pest control professional.

The first actionable step in alleviating a serious yellow jacket issue is hiring a pest control professional. While the following steps can be useful in removing a small number of yellow jackets, a professional who has dealt with these types of wasps before is going to be the safest option to remove the pests. These pros know exactly how to get rid of wasps and yellow jackets safely and effectively.

Do yellow jackets sting?

Yellow jackets are a social species that become territorial of their habitats. Colonies can become aggressive when they are disturbed and are not afraid to use their stingers—multiple times. Yellow jacket stings can cause hives, swelling, redness, and itching; in some cases, they may cause an allergic reaction. If a yellow jacket sting won’t stop hurting after the area has been cleaned and cold-wrapped, over-the-counter pain medications or antihistamines can help.

A hole in a lawn with yellow jackets nesting inside.
Photo: istockphoto.com

STEP 3: Try natural remedies.

There are a few things that can be done to help mitigate a yellow jacket issue while waiting for a pest control professional to come out. The below suggestions are actions that can be taken if someone is comfortable being in close proximity to the wasps or their nest.

Don't deal with yellow jackets by yourself
Call a pest pro ASAP. Get free, no-commitment project estimates from exterminators near you.

Peppermint Oil

Combine a few drops of peppermint oil with warm water and dish soap to make a yellow jacket repellent. Putting this concoction into a spray bottle and spraying it near the entrance of the yellow jacket nest can be helpful in deterring the pests from re-entering the home. This is most effective when it is reapplied every few days.

Imitation Nest

Another great way to draw yellow jackets from their nest is to give them somewhere else to go. Placing an imitation wasp nest in the vicinity of the real nest will deter the yellow jackets from continuing to use their current nest. Since they are territorial, they will likely think another wasp colony is in their area and move.

Protein Bait

Since yellow jackets are hunters, they will be drawn to sources of protein like chicken, liver, and fish. One of these options can be used as a successful protein bait atop a bucket of soapy water. After hanging the bait, the yellow jacket may try to fly away with a piece that is too heavy and will (hopefully) drop into the bucket of soapy water. Sweet baits like soda or juice can be just as effective during late summer and early fall.

Cover the Nest

It may sound obvious, but covering the entrance to the yellow jacket nest in the ground once it is located is a good option when trying to deal with a yellow jacket infestation. If any wasps are left in the nest when you cover the entrance with an object, such as a bowl or box, they will starve to death. Consequently, any yellow jackets that cannot return to their underground wasp nest will find a new area to build their home.

STEP 4: Apply a spray treatment.

One of the best wasp sprays can be used to spray the nest. The best time to approach the nest for spraying (and when using any other remedies) is at night, when the colony is the least active and most yellow jackets are inside the nest. While wearing clothing that covers any exposed skin to prevent any possible stings, the homeowner or a pro will need to spray the nest by following the directions on the yellow jacket spray. If there is activity at the nest at the same time the next day, they’ll want to spray it again.

This is no DIY task
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STEP 5: Hang yellow jacket traps.

Homeowners can consider a one of the best wasp traps or a homemade wasp trap to draw these pests away from their homes. They’ll need to put bait (mentioned above) inside a trap and hang it where the most yellow jacket activity is occurring. Residents will want to check the trap every few days once activity around it seems to have lessened to see if it needs more bait. Hanging traps will be especially helpful for colonies that have made a nest within the walls or another area on the exterior of the home.

What attracts yellow jackets?

Yellow jackets and other pests are attracted to common sources that can be found around the home. Food items, such as open cans of soda or sweet treats, will draw yellow jackets near. Additionally, sweet-smelling hygiene products like shampoo, perfume, and body spray will also act as a beacon for these pests.

An electric bug zapper with an out-of-focus tree in the background.
Photo: istockphoto.com

STEP 6: Install an electric bug zapper.

For those who do not want to have direct contact with the yellow jacket nest, an electric bug zapper can be beneficial. By placing the zapper outdoors in the general vicinity of the known colony, the yellow jackets will be drawn to the device because it emits a humming noise that also causes vibration. To the wasps, this will sound like an invasion of their nest and they will fly directly to the source and be zapped.

STEP 7: Prevent yellow jackets from nesting.

Residents will want to seal any tight spaces around the exterior of the home that may serve as a nice spot for a yellow jacket nest, as well as keep lids on garbage cans to prevent drawing the attention of wasps. Additionally, homeowners will want to be mindful that wasps like sweet smells, so it’s wise to consider where fruit trees or crops may be planted on the property.

Yellow jackets may be intimidating at first, but it is possible for a homeowner to deter them and even get rid of their nest altogether by following the steps above. When it comes to yellow jackets, it’s best to go right to the source and get rid of them as early as possible. Especially for homeowners who are allergic to this species or are not confident in their ability to rid their property of these pests, it’s wise to play it safe and recruit a pest control professional to take care of the job.