This time of year is when problems with wasps really arise. The culprit behind most late summer/autumn wasp issues are yellowjackets. These wasps build distinctive nests of paper constructed from chewed wood pulp and fibers mixed with the wasps’ saliva. Each nest is composed of several horizontal combs connected by a central paper stalk, all enclosed within a many-layered paper envelope with one or more entrance holes, usually toward the bottom. These nests can be very conspicuous in the typically aerial-nesting yellowjackets of the genus Dolichovespula, or can be far more hidden in the ground- or cavity-nesting yellowjackets of the genus Vespula.
While these wasps have been building their nests all summer long, they rarely become major issues earlier than August or September. It might seem that a problem-causing late-season yellowjacket colony must be at its peak, but they actually begin to cause problems because they are beginning to decline. The queen that founded the nest in spring is feeble with age or has already died, and the nest has few to no eggs, larvae, and pupae to care for. With their society collapsing and their usual job of hunting for food to feed the larvae gone, the workers pick up the looting and pillaging mentality common in post-apocalyptic films… but instead of raiding other colonies, they raid trash cans, picnics, and homes. During this end-of-society mayhem, next year’s queens and males reach maturity. These queens and males leave the colony to mate. The queens burrow underground or into rotting logs to hibernate through the winter, while the males, workers (sterile females), and this year’s colonies will die with the first hard, penetrating frost.
While yellowjackets offer major ecosystem services – they are decent pollinators, as well as excellent predators of flies and caterpillars – they can also be major pests. During this time of year, the remaining workers typically crave sugars, so keeping trash cans covered and foregoing on outdoor picnics can minimize encounters with wandering workers. Nests can be far trickier to manage, and trying to remove a nest can quickly turn into taking many stings. If you think you have a problem nest around your home or business, our technicians can help! They have the training and tools to safely and effectively remove the nest so you can get back to enjoying your fall without worrying about stings.