The Yellow Jackets Will Gitcha If You Don’t Watch Out

Curt-lineby Curt Kovener

It has started and will continue until the first frost out in the wilderness. Those ground dwelling yellow jackets are highly territorial and they have an attitude. And they are on the prowl.

I am not afraid of snakes or spiders but stinging insects hold a special place of terror for me particularly the kind that you don’t know they are there until they start stinging.

Slightly larger than a honey bee, I have learned to keep my eyes pealed for these yellow and black flying stingsters entering and leaving a hole in the earth.

I learned to look out for them from the numerous bad experiences I have had over the years when I don’t watch where I step. I say “they” sting because I have never been stung by these rascals just a single time. They work in gangs to drive away humans intruding on their turf. I start moving away at the first sting but before I can run any distance their brothers, sisters and cousins join in the attack. The most I have ever been stung by yellow jackets is four times at one alleged molestation. Fortunately, I am not allergic to wasp and bee venom. But the stings do hurt and itch like the dickens the next day as the swelling subsides

Whether walking, mowing, or weed-whacking I am mindful of the surroundings this time of year.

When I find a colony, if it is in a usually traveled area, I mark the entrance and wait until after dark and douse the hole with some diesel fuel followed by a match. They next morning there is some singed and charred vegetation but no yellow jackets.

If I find a nest away from the beaten path, I note its location and leave them alone. They are predators that dine on other insects. They also like sweets like cantaloupe and watermelon. And they like dog poop. Charley provides them with a vast buffet.

But I have found there is some nocturnal animal…possibly a raccoon or skunk…that dines on the yellow jackets and their larvae. Occasionally I will find the earth disturbed, dirt scattered and remnants of the paper nests which have been picked clean of eggs and larvae.

The yellow jackets are a daytime roaming insect that returns to their nest at dusk. So I have to wonder what kind of wilderness creature can withstand the stings while raiding the underground nest. Or maybe after dark if the yellow jacket can’t see its aggressor, it can’t sting.

I do not know nor do I intend to find out if that is the case.