Skip to main content

Yellowjacket nests are empty now

A common question now is what should be done about any old wasp nests that survived from last year. The good news is not a thing! Whether the nests are hanging from a tree, in a wall void in your home, or in the ground, there are no live yellowjackets remaining in them. To understand why this is so, we need to look at yellowjacket biology
If you have a wasp nest this spring, no worries.
All of the yellowjackets died last fall.  Photo:
Jeff Hahn, University of Minnesota Extension

Yellowjackets have an annual life cycle; nests survive for just one season. At this time of year, the only yellowjackets from last season are new queens, which have spent the winter in protected sites, like under loose bark or cracks and spaces in a building.

Once temperatures warm up in the spring, these queens become active and start searching for places to build their nests, typically somewhere quiet and protected. They feed themselves and forage for sources of wood, which they make into a paper mache like material for constructing nests.

Once nests are large enough, queens lay eggs, which develop into workers (sterile females). These workers go out and hunt food (live insects) and gather building materials to make nests larger. Queens remain in the nests and produce more workers. This continues throughout the summer.

During late summer and fall, queens produce females and males. They leave their nests, mate, and the new queens fly off to look for sites to spend the winter (the males die shortly after mating). When freezing temperatures arrive in the fall, the old queen and all the workers in the nests die. There are no survivors the following spring and nests are not reused.

Ignore any yellowjacket nests you find now. They eventually will deteriorate and go away on their own; surviving queens will build new nests from scratch this spring.

For more information, see also Wasps and bees. 

Author: Jeffrey Hahn, Extension Entomologist
Print Friendly and PDF