How to Get Rid of Yellow Jackets in Your Yard

yellow jacket

Not a force to be reckoned with, yellow jackets are a true menace in yards. You might think they look cute – with their distinctive black and yellow markings – but they can pose a threat to you and your family. And even if you know how to get rid of yellow jackets in your yard, you must be careful when dealing with them.

Most active in late summer and early fall, this type of wasp can transform a peaceful yard into a potential danger zone. And since the female yellow jacket stings multiple times to protect its nest, you must understand how to effectively eliminate these pests from your outdoor space.

How to get rid of yellow jackets in your yard

yellow jacket on a flower
Photo Credit: PxHere | CC0

While honeybees are part of nature’s pollination crew, yellow jackets fill the role of bug killers. They hunt for food sources within a mile of their nest, killing and eating insects, such as:

  • Beetle larvae
  • Caterpillars
  • Spiders

They mix their meal with enzymes to form something like a slurry and feed it to their young.

A yellow jacket problem can be serious, especially if the ground nest is near areas where there are people, such as along a driveway or near a door. Most of the time, homeowners don’t know a nest is there unless they accidentally mow over one or notice yellow jackets flying in and out.

The first step in getting rid of these social wasps is to locate their nest. Once located, you can use various methods to remove or destroy it, depending on its accessibility and size:

Option 1: Professional extermination

Hiring a licensed pest control expert is often the safest and most efficient way to eliminate yellow jackets, especially if you’re dealing with a large nest. They have the experience and equipment to safely eliminate wasp nests. If you have an allergy to bee, wasp, or hornet stings, this is the best option for you. 

The service costs around $725, but it’s worth every penny. Professional exterminators can assess the extent of the problem, locate and eliminate the nest, and provide ongoing prevention strategies. They use various methods and specialized equipment to ensure the complete removal of yellow jackets.

Pros of professional extermination

✓ Highly effective
✓ Lessens the risk of future infestations
✓ Keeps you safe by not having to do it yourself
✓ This comprehensive solution works even for hard-to-reach locations

Cons of professional extermination

✗ Professional extermination can be more expensive than DIY methods
✗ May involve the use of chemical pesticides, which can be a concern for some
✗ You’ll need to coordinate with the extermination company, which may take time

Consider professional extermination when you have a severe or recurring yellow jacket problem that DIY methods have failed to resolve. It’s also the best option for nests in hard-to-reach or dangerous locations.

Note: This option is applicable for all types and sizes of infestations, providing a safe, effective, and long-term solution.

Option 2: Aerosol insecticide

Aerosol insecticides designed to freeze yellow jacket nests work by rapidly cooling the inhabitants of a nest. These products are sprayed on the entry point of wasp nests or directly inside the nest (if accessible), causing the yellow jackets to freeze to death.

By using an aerosol spray, it will be easier to remove the nest. You can do it in late evening or early morning when yellow jackets are in their nests.

Pros of freezing the nest with aerosol insecticide

✓ Fast and effective
✓ Precise application – reduces the risk of collateral damage
✓ Can eradicate the entire colony, including developing larvae

Cons of freezing the nest with aerosol insecticide

✗ Limited to accessible nests
✗ There is a risk of getting stung when approaching the nest
✗ Aerosol sprays contain chemicals that may harm beneficial insects and the environment

After the first application, keep an eye on yellow jacket activity at the hole. If you continue to see the wasps going in and out, give the hole another spray with the insecticide. If necessary, repeat a third time.

Note: This aerosol spray method is suitable for above ground nests. It’s especially effective for smaller colonies or when you need a quick solution.

Option 3: Insecticidal dust

Dust insecticides, such as carbaryl or permethrin, can be applied directly into the nest entrance when yellow jackets are less active at night. It’s most effective for ground nests, but be sure to follow the product instructions carefully.

This finely powdered pesticide adheres to the insects’ bodies and is carried into the nest, effectively eliminating the entire colony as they groom themselves and clean the nest.

Pros of using insecticidal dust

✓ It can penetrate deep into concealed or underground nests
✓ The dust is typically localized, minimizing exposure to non-target insects
✓ This attractant provides residual control, killing yellow jackets that return to the nest

Cons of using insecticidal dust

✗ May not reach the entire colony in large nests
✗ You must get close to the nest to apply the dust

Note: This method is suitable for underground nests or nests in wall voids, provided you can safely reach the nest for application.

Option 4: Diatomaceous earth

If you want to skip synthetic insecticides, try diatomaceous earth instead. An organic way to control yellow jacket infestations, it consists of crushed fossils that act as slivers of glass on insects’ bodies and wings.

Apply it to the nest opening or sprinkle around and inside the entry hole. When the insects come into contact with the diatomaceous earth, it damages their exoskeletons, leading to dehydration and death.

Pros of sprinkling diatomaceous earth

✓ Natural, non-toxic, and safe for the environment
✓ Also effective in deterring and controlling other garden pests
✓ An excellent option for homeowners concerned about using chemical pesticides

Cons of sprinkling diatomaceous earth

✗ May not be as effective for aerial nests
✗ Takes time to work and may not provide immediate relief
✗ It can lose effectiveness when wet, so you may need to reapply after rain

After applying this attractant, observe yellow jacket activity at the hole. If it continues, apply a second dusting and repeat as necessary. Remember to avoid breathing the diatomaceous earth dust and follow the label directions.

Note: This method is suitable for deterring and controlling yellow jackets in areas where it’s challenging to access the nest directly and where immediate results are not required.

Option 5: DIY traps

Many types of yellow jacket traps that rely on pheromones to attract and trap stinging wasps are available at garden centers. But you also can make yellow jacket traps at home using sweet baits, like fruit juice or sugary water, to attract the insects.

Place these traps away from high-traffic areas to capture foraging workers. These traps can help reduce the population but may not eliminate the entire nest.

Pros of using DIY traps

✓ Affordable – they can be made from household items
✓ Traps keep yellow jackets away from you and your family
✓ They do not involve using chemicals and are eco-friendly

Cons of using DIY traps

✗ May attract more insects to your yard
✗ You need to empty and replace the trap when it’s full
✗ May not eliminate an entire colony with its selective targeting

Set up these traps when you want to reduce the presence of yellow jackets in specific areas, especially during outdoor activities or picnics.

Note: These traps work well for managing small populations of yellow jackets or for keeping them away from high-activity areas in your yard. They’re not the best solution for large infestations.

Option 6: Dishwashing detergent

In a 5-gallon bucket, mix 1 cup of dishwashing detergent with about 5 gallons of water. One approach is to pour the solution directly into the hole. You must be cautious, though, and be prepared to make a fast break.

The best way to eliminate a nest with this method is to use a hose-end sprayer. Ensure the container hasn’t been used for applying an herbicide because residue could damage or kill your lawn and other desirable plants. (If you accidentally damage your lawn, don’t worry. There’s a way to grow grass fast.)

The water helps stick the dishwashing detergent to the wasp’s body, which eventually eats away at the exoskeleton. Also, the detergent reduces the surface tension of the water, causing the wasps to drown.

Pros of using a dishwashing detergent

✓ Non-toxic to humans and pets
✓ Dish soap is a cost-effective solution for dealing with yellow jackets
✓ Uses common household items that are not harmful to the environment

Cons of using a dishwashing detergent

✗ May not eliminate the entire colony
✗ May not be suitable for large infestations
✗ You’ll need to mix the solution and fill a spray bottle every time

Use this dish soap method when you notice yellow jackets frequenting specific areas in your yard, such as around food or drinks. It’s most effective for trapping individual yellow jackets.

Another less toxic method is to spray soapy water directly onto the nest to suffocate and kill the yellow jackets. You also can pour the mixture into the nest entrance after dusk to clog the insects’ breathing tubes, suffocating them.

Note: Dishwashing detergent is a good choice for small infestations or as a supplementary method alongside other techniques for larger colonies.

Option 7: Liquid insecticide

Designed to be sprayed directly onto yellow jacket nests or their entry points, liquid insecticides are particularly useful when you can access the nest and have a clear target. The chemicals in the liquid kill the insects upon contact or ingestion.

You also can use this attractant as a barrier treatment around the areas where yellow jackets are active.

Pros of using a liquid insecticide

✓ Effective for ground nests
✓ Provides immediate results, killing yellow jackets on contact
✓ Various applicators are available, including aerosols and sprayers

Cons of using a liquid insecticide

✗ Not suitable for aerial nests
✗ You need to get close to the nest to apply the liquid, increasing the risk of stings
✗ These attractants contain chemicals that may pose risks to non-target insects and the environment

Apply liquid insecticide once you’ve located the nest or entry points. Ensure you do this during the evening or at night when yellow jackets are less active.

Note: This method is appropriate for nests that are accessible and not too high off the ground. It’s most effective when you can directly target the nest.

Option 8: Peppermint oil

With its strong and pleasant aroma, peppermint oil can be used to deter yellow jackets. Yellow jackets are highly sensitive to strong odors, and peppermint oil is a natural repellent for them. By placing peppermint oil-soaked cotton balls in problem areas, you can create a barrier to keep these insects away.

Another approach is to spray a solution of water and peppermint oil around your yard to deter these wasps from settling.

Pros of using peppermint oil

✓ Can deter other unwanted insects from your yard
✓ It’s safe, natural, non-toxic, and environmentally friendly

Cons of using peppermint oil

✗ Not effective for severe infestations
✗ The scent diminishes over time, so you’ll need to refresh the application periodically
✗ Effectiveness may vary based on the yellow jacket species and environmental factors

Use peppermint oil as a proactive measure to prevent yellow jackets from establishing nests in your yard. Apply it in early spring or before the yellow jacket season starts.

Note: This method is most suitable for deterring yellow jackets from problem areas and may not be effective for dealing with a full-blown infestation.

Option 9: Bug smoke bomb

A bug smoke bomb is an effective means of eradicating yellow jacket nests, especially when the nest is underground. These devices release a dense, suffocating smoke that disorients and forces the yellow jackets to evacuate their nest.

Pros of using a bug smoke bomb

✓ Applicable for more severe yellow jacket problems
✓ Can effectively eliminate the entire colony by driving them out
✓ You can use these bombs from a distance, minimizing the risk of stings

Cons of using a bug smoke bomb

✗ Extreme safety precautions needed
✗ While it eradicates the current nest, it doesn’t deter new colonies from forming
✗ These bombs are not environmentally friendly, as they release harmful chemicals and may harm beneficial insects

Use a bug smoke bomb for fumigating an underground nest. Perform this method during the evening or at night for best results.

Note: Bug smoke bombs are suitable for dealing with established yellow jacket nests, particularly for larger colonies or nests in hard-to-reach places.

Safety considerations when getting rid of yellow jackets

Photo Credit: slobo | Canva Pro | License

If you simply whack away at a yellow jacket nest, the aggressive nature and painful stings of these wasps may lead to severe allergic reactions. After locating the entrance of the yellow jacket nest, follow these safety measures:

Wear protective clothing

Wearing the right protective clothing is paramount when dealing with yellow jackets. Here’s what you should consider:

  • Coveralls or thick clothing: Don clothing that covers your entire body, such as coveralls or thick, long sleeves and pants. This reduces the likelihood of getting stung through your clothes.
  • Closed-toe shoes: Wear closed-toe shoes, preferably with socks, to protect your feet from stings.
  • Gloves: Sturdy gloves, such as leather or rubber gloves, can prevent stings on your hands.
  • Head protection: In cases where yellow jackets are known to swarm, consider wearing a beekeeping veil or a hat with a net to protect your face and neck.

Work at dawn or dusk

Yellow jackets are most active during the day, particularly in the late morning and early afternoon.

So, plan your efforts during their low-activity periods, which are early morning or late evening – when the ambient temperature is about 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Most yellow jackets are in their underground nest at dawn or dusk, so it reduces the likelihood of encountering aggressive yellow jackets and getting stung.

Maintain a safe distance

When dealing with yellow jackets, it’s essential to keep your distance whenever possible. Avoid approaching nests or foraging yellow jackets without a clear plan and proper protective gear. Stay at least several feet away from the nest and use long-reaching tools when necessary.

Avoid swatting or agitating the yellow jackets

Sudden movements, swatting, or loud noises can agitate these wasps and provoke an attack. Maintain a calm and deliberate approach when working near their nests. Do not attempt to swat or shoo them away, as this can increase the likelihood of stings.

Consider allergic reactions

Yellow jacket stings may cause allergic reactions in most people. Even if you don’t have a known bee or wasp allergy, have an epinephrine auto-injector (commonly known as an EpiPen) on hand and know how to use it.

If you or someone involved in the process experiences signs of an allergic reaction, like difficulty breathing, swelling, or a rapid pulse, seek immediate medical attention.

DIY with caution

If you choose to address the issue yourself, do so with caution. Follow safety guidelines for the specific method you’re using. Whenever possible, have someone with you while dealing with these stinging insects. They can provide assistance, call for help if needed, and ensure your safety in the event of an emergency.

When in doubt, or if the infestation is severe, it’s still best to consult a pest control professional. They have the training, experience, and equipment to handle yellow jacket infestations safely and effectively.

How to keep yellow jackets out of your yard

Photo Credit: tfoxfoto | Canva Pro | License

Preventing yellow jackets from invading your yard is not only essential for your peace of mind but also for ensuring the safety of your family. These stinging insects can become a nuisance during warm months, but with proactive measures, you can significantly reduce their presence. Here are effective strategies to keep yellow jackets out of your yard:

  • Cover food and drinks: Yellow jackets are attracted to sugary and protein-rich foods. When dining outdoors, cover your food and drinks with lids or mesh screens to keep these pests away. Be especially vigilant during picnics, barbecues, and outdoor gatherings. Even pet food can attract these wasps.
  • Maintain clean outdoor spaces: Since these wasps are drawn to food odors and residues, always clean up any food spills or crumbs in your yard. Ensure your trash cans have tightly sealed lids to prevent the wasps from scavenging for food scraps. Also, regularly clean your trash cans to remove any enticing odors.
  • Regular landscaping maintenance: Since yellow jackets are attracted to water sources, fix any leaking faucets, hoses, or irrigation systems. Additionally, mowing your lawn and trimming back overgrown shrubs, bushes, and trees can help reduce hiding places for these wasps.
  • Seal openings and cracks: Inspect your home’s exterior for cracks and openings that yellow jackets could use to enter your house or build nests. Seal these gaps with caulk or appropriate materials. Also, secure entryways by installing screens on doors and windows. Ensure your doors close tightly and that there are no gaps.
  • Plant yellow jacket-repelling plants: Some plants, such as mint, marigold, and basil, are known to repel this type of wasp. Consider planting these near outdoor seating areas.
  • Avoid bright colors and floral prints: Bright colors and floral prints can attract yellow jackets, as they resemble the flowers these wasps forage on. When spending time outdoors, opt for lighter, solid-colored clothing to minimize their interest.
  • Regular nest inspections: Regularly inspect your yard for signs of yellow jacket nests. Early detection allows for prompt removal before the colony grows larger and more aggressive.
  • Professional pest control: If you have recurring yellow jacket problems or discover nests in hard-to-reach places, consider consulting a pest control professional. They can safely remove nests and provide advice on long-term prevention.

Note: A combination of these methods is often the most effective approach to keeping yellow jackets at bay.

FAQ about getting rid of yellow jackets in your yard

Can I use bug zappers to get rid of yellow jackets?

Bug zappers are generally not effective as a yellow jacket control method. These devices are designed to attract insects with light and electrocute them, but yellow jackets are less drawn to light sources. They are more interested in food sources, such as sugary substances and proteins.

Instead of bug zappers, consider using yellow jacket traps with bait designed to lure these insects away from your outdoor spaces.

What if the yellow jacket nest is hanging from a tree or house?

Similar to bald-faced hornets and paper wasps, it’s not uncommon for yellow jackets to build aerial nests in trees, roof eaves, window frames, or other aboveground spaces. If the nest is within a 20-foot reach, consider using a spray insecticide labeled for wasps or hornets.

Aim the spray at the opening and saturate the nest. Depending on the size of the nest, a second treatment may be necessary. And if you need to climb a ladder to spray the nest, you’ll have to add about 20 seconds before you can get to safety.

Do yellow jacket nests have many entrance and exit holes?

Yellow jacket nests typically have a single entrance hole. Worker yellow jackets use the same hole as their entrance and exit points as they forage for food and attend to the needs of the colony.

But in some cases, particularly for larger and more established nests, you might find additional, smaller holes or openings near the main entrance. These secondary holes can serve various purposes, such as providing ventilation to the nest, allowing worker yellow jackets to remove waste materials, or providing alternative exits in case of threats or disturbances.

A yellow jacket nest fell out of my tree. What can I do with the nest?

First, ensure the nest is already empty. Then, you can open the empty nest to see how the fascinating caverns and cells are constructed. You also may donate it to a local school’s science class or a nature program at an area park.

When to call a pest control pro

A lot of people want nothing to do with yellow jackets in their yard. They may have an allergy or are simply afraid. But yellow jackets are truly something to be afraid of because they can quickly become aggressive. So, don’t wait until you’ve been stung by these pests.

Call a pest control pro who knows how to get rid of yellow jackets in your yard. These exterminators are trained and have the clothing and equipment to do the job safely and efficiently.

Lawn Love participates in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program and other retailer affiliate programs. Lawn Love earns revenue from products promoted in this article.

Main Image Credit: Wally Holden | Unsplash | License

Melanie Joseph

After discovering her passion for writing through her beauty blog, Melanie left her engineering job in California, became a writer, and never once looked back. When she isn't writing, she loves dipping in the pool, tending to the garden, or doing simple home improvement projects.