Kill Those Stinking Yellow Jackets!

October 2, 2010 | By | Comments (19)

Yellow jackets

You want to know why I hate yellow jackets? I’ll tell you why.

A couple of years ago, photographer Ralph Anderson and I were on a photo shoot at John & Marsha Warren’s home in the mountains of western North Carolina at the peak of fall color. We had nailed the timing just right, the photos were turning out great, and we felt like celebrating. So we bought some 22-oz. bottles of this really fine microbrew and placed them in the creek to chill. Here’s a photo of John & Marsha’s place.

Warren

After an hour or so, I popped open a beer, took a few delicious swallows and then put it down on a rock while I helped Ralph with a shot. I then returned to my beer, took another mouthful, and instantly realized something was terribly wrong.

A yellow jacket had been inside the beer bottle. That yellow jacket was now in my mouth. It announced its dissatisfaction with the current situation by stinging me on the lip. I spit it out, but the damage was done.

My lip began to inflate like a hot air balloon.

Marsha immediately got a me towel with ice in it to place on my lip to reduce the swelling. It didn’t really work, but I appreciated the gesture. About 30 minutes later, it was time for me to drive back to Birmingham. An hour later, my cell phone rang. It was Marsha. I could hear music and laughter in the background. They (and Ralph too, the swine) were all having a big party.

“Where are you now, Steve?” Marsha asked compassionately.

“My car just arrived at the Georgia state line,” I replied. “My lip crossed the line two minutes earlier.”

But It’s Not All About Me

Yellow jackets are a bane to many people, but particularly in the fall. These bug-eating carnivores find food harder to come by then. So they seek out sweets, like soft drinks, sliced watermelon, and beer, and proceed to make consuming them outside nearly impossible for us. That swarm in the top photo is dining on a fruit roll-up. (Thanks for the cool photo, brenbot.)

About a half-inch long and decorated with yellow and black bands, these wasps make up for in bad attitude what they lack in size. They sting with little provocation and, unlike bees that can sting only once, yellow jackets can sting again and again, along with all of their vindictive yellow jacket buddies.

How to Safely Kill Yellow Jackets
Wasp killer Yellow jackets make underground nests with an entrance hole to the surface. They also nest between rocks. A steady zoom of wasps to and from the nest betrays its presence. Disturb them and they’ll sting you. Follow my instructions (as my faithful reader, Jean, recently did) and the yellow jackets will be history.

So here’s what to do.

1. Locate the entrance hole or opening to the nest.

2. Buy wasp & hornet killer in a jet-spray can like the one you see here. It will allow you to spray the nest from at least 10 feet away.

3. Plan your assault for either dusk or just before dawn. The insects will all be inside the nest then and less aggressive. Spraying on a cool morning is even better, because chilled yellow jackets are sluggish and not prone to fly.

4. Before spraying the nest, test your aim by spraying briefly at something else. You want this operation to go smoothly.

5. Very slowly sneak up to the nest, put the crosshairs on the opening, lock and load, and LET ‘ER RIP!!!! Empty the whole can if you’re so inclined. The spray instantly kills yellow jackets, even knocking them out of the air. OORAH!!! Take no prisoners.

Uncle Grumpy’s Cure for Bee Stings

I know a lot of you probably treat wasp and bee stings by plastering moist wads of chewing tobacco on them, but despite appearances, my family does not chew. However, here’s something that worked recently when a yellow jacket stung Judy on the neck. I got a cotton cloth, dipped a portion of it in a little Clorox, and applied it to the sting. Within 5 minutes, the swelling reduced dramatically and the pain went away.

Of course, this is not a good idea if you get stung on the lip. My advice — never leave your beer alone.

COMMENTS

  1. Roscoe

    I got stung twice one day this summer while cutting the back yard. Dang, it hurt. I went to Home Depot and got one of those contraptions that you hang from a tree limb which worked, but Grump, I you say, I like the satisfaction of shooting a whole can of wasp killer on their nest. This is usually accompanied by some choice swearing. Dadgum yellow jackets.

    October 2, 2010 at 9:33 am
  2. Jean

    Good advice Grump! Works like a charm. Good thing cause I dont chew either!

    October 2, 2010 at 10:21 am
  3. molly

    the word that describes the sheer joy of assaulting their malevolent souls: schadenfreude

    October 2, 2010 at 10:35 am
  4. Donna

    Great info and advice Grumpy. I got stung by a whole mess of them on a job once. Boy was I a hurting. Wish I knew the bleach tip. The workers mudded me. I was not pleased, to say the least.

    October 2, 2010 at 10:30 pm
  5. Paula

    Me, age 8, cotton candy, Myrtle Beach Pavilion, similar results. My lower lip literally turned inside out for a couple of days. Nasty critters.

    October 3, 2010 at 6:47 am
  6. Grumpy Gardener (His Benevolence)

    Gosh, Paula, for a second I thought you were going to say, “Me, age 8, 22-oz. beer….”

    October 4, 2010 at 7:43 am
  7. Jill in Atlanta

    Inside a soda can at the Piedmont Arts festival… My sting was under the tongue and had nowhere to swell- hurt like hell. Quite common according to the first aid booth….

    October 4, 2010 at 8:47 am
  8. KY Bonnie

    Your presentation at the World Equesterian Games was terrific. I will definitely order the fool proof rose – especially if I can find the note next spring unless I can plant it in the Fall. What do you think?

    October 5, 2010 at 6:33 pm
  9. UrsulaV

    These nasty critters in the photo are invasive German yellow jackets, for which I have no particular love (and sadly there are no particular predators in North America.) But in defense of our native southern and eastern yellowjacket, they actually provide a valuable garden service by preying on a great many pests, both of crops and ornamentals. So if they aren’t actively bothering you, or in a high-traffic area where you’ll run across them regularly, it may be worthwhile to the gardener to leave them alone rather than reach for the spray.

    October 6, 2010 at 2:46 pm
  10. Grumpy Gardener (His Benevolence)

    Bonnie,
    You can plant the ‘Peggy Martin’ rose this fall. It’s available at http://www.petalsfromthepast.com.

    October 7, 2010 at 3:38 pm
  11. Grumpy Gardener (His Benevolence)

    Ursula,
    You make a good point. Wasps and hornets are predators and dine on a wide variety of garden pests. I always say if you have a hornet’s nest in a tree nearby, you won’t have any caterpillars on your plants.

    October 7, 2010 at 3:40 pm
  12. Marie

    Stepped on a nest last week. Got stung approximately 10 times. They even went up my shorts!! I was in total pain that night. My ankle was swollen for several days. I definitely will try the Clorox suggestion in the future! I suggest the Raid spray over the Spectracide. I actually wrote for my money back on the Spectracide. I am of course holding my breath until it gets here. This is the third large nest we have found. 2 cans of Raid and a shovel killed one nest completely. 5 cans of Spectacide and a shovel on another nest, and the yellow jackets are rebuilding. Raid is about twice the price but worth it!

    October 11, 2010 at 4:17 pm
  13. Susan

    Clorox is THE BEST thing I have ever used for wasp stings. I too, had tried the tobacco thing with not much relief. Then, I found out about the Clorox………..it really works!

    October 13, 2010 at 3:27 pm
  14. Melissa

    Combine baking soda and water to apply on bee stings, works great as well and may be okay on lips.

    October 14, 2010 at 12:04 pm
  15. Kim

    Grumpy – this may help next time and unlike the Clorox, can be used near the mouth. Summer 1979 – New Hampshire White Mountains, my brother was hiking and tripped over a log in which a yellow jacket nest was located. He got stung almost 50 times. It was 30 minutes to the nearest hospital.
    My Mom made a paste out of meat tenderizer and a little water and packed it on the welts. The doctor told her she saved his life. When we went home later, he had not one swollen welt.

    October 14, 2010 at 12:08 pm
  16. Grumpy Gardener (His Benevolence)

    Kim,
    I bet he was tender!

    October 14, 2010 at 2:12 pm
  17. PAT

    CAN’T WALK ACROSS MY FRONT YARD, YELLOW JACKETS ARE SOMEWHERE IN AN AREA WHERE i HAVE SEVERAL TREES IN THE FRONT YARD IN A CIRCLE WHICH IS SURROUNDED BY A THICK CIRCLE OF FERNS AND SOME FANTAIL PALMS. I CAN’T GET CLOSE ENOUGH TO FIND THE NEST AND JUST SPRAYING THE GENERAL AREA DOESN’T WORK. BEEN STUNG BOTH TIMES I TRIED TO GET CLOSE AND DON’T WANT TO GO THERE AGAIN…TOO PAINFUL.. HELP! THE AREA IN THIS CIRCLE OF TREES, PALMS AND FERNS IS ALSO COVERED WITH LAYERS OF THE GRASS AND LEAF CLIPPINGS BECAUSE I EMPTY MY GRASS CATCHER ON THE LAWNMOWER INTO THIS AREA TO SERVE AS MULCH.

    January 12, 2012 at 1:04 am
  18. conrad Dalton

    Raised in Kentucky, when I was younger Mother used the baking soda and water paste. When I got stung at my grandmother’s house, she grabbed the ammonia and a small strip cloth off a clean rag. Worked like a charm. Seems the ammonia pulls the venom out. At least that’s what she said. Who was I to question a seventy year old woman who lived through the depression?. But yeah, getting nailed in the mouth or on the lip would call for other remedies.

    April 1, 2013 at 10:07 am
  19. Steve Bender

    Conrad,

    There’s a good reason why ammonia works. The venom is an acid. The ammonia is alkaline and neutralizes the venom.

    April 1, 2013 at 11:03 am