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Yellowjackets are conspicuous now

Jeffrey Hahn, Extension Entomologist

There have been a lot of question about yellowjackets lately. These insects are at their peak numbers now and nests that people didn’t realize were present are now being discovered. While in most cases people are seeing yellowjackets, there is a tendency to call all stinging insects "bees" which can be confusing. Different approaches are taken for control depending on whether yellowjackets or honey bees are present.
A typical yellowjacket.  Note the black and yellow color
 and smooth body. Photo: Jeff Hahn, UMN Extension

The first step is to verify which insect is present. A yellowjacket is about ½ inch long (this can vary some), black and yellow or white, and relatively slender with few hairs. A baldfaced hornet, a type of yellowjacket, is a little larger, about 5/8th inch long, and mostly black. Paper wasps may also be found; they are generally brown with yellow marking, a slender body with long legs and measure from 1/2 to 1 inch long. Honey bees are about ½ inch long brown and black, relatively slender but have more hair.

If you have yellowjackets or paper wasps, there are several options for dealing with them. If the nest is located a reasonably safe distance from where people may be present and the risk of stings is minimal, just ignore them. Eventually, all of the insects in the nest die after hard frosts occur.

If nests are located somewhere where an unacceptable risk of stings occurs, then the nests should be treated (For specific information on treating yellowjacket nests, see Social wasps and bees in the upper Midwest). There have been requests to find someone who can remove and relocate yellowjacket nests. While this can be done with honey bee colonies, it is not possible to relocate a yellowjacket nest. The only options are to ignore or treat them.
Honey bee.  Note the brown and black coloration and fuzzy
body.  Photo: Jeff Hahn, UMN Extension

Honey bees should be tolerated in essentially all circumstances. If honey bees are found, that have been positively identified, an experienced beekeeper may be willing to remove it. Check for one at the bee removal website or on the Minnesota Hobby Beekeepers Association website.

For more information on yellowjackets and bees, see Social wasps and bees in the upper Midwest.
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