How to Identify Yellow Jackets and Protect from Being Stung

Honeybee vs. Yellow Jacket | Pretty Handy Girl

Summertime is here and I can’t keep shoes on the kids…

Honeybee vs. Yellow Jacket | Pretty Handy Girl

…or clothes for that matter.

Honeybee vs. Yellow Jacket | Pretty Handy Girl

I think my kids inherited it from me. I have fond memories of running around our backyard as a child barely clothed. I also have a not so fond memory of stumbling upon a yellow jacket nest. I ran until my little legs gave out and I hit the ground face first as those little devils stung my backside several times. Nothing puts a damper on summer fun like a bunch of yellow jacket stings on your hiney. Two years ago, my oldest son had the unfortunate experience of stumbling upon a nest in our yard. If I could have taken the stings for him, I would have. Lucky for us, he didn’t experience an allergic reaction on top of the stings. But, allergic or not, yellow jackets are not welcome in my yard!

That summer that I got stung, I learned to tell the difference between yellow jackets and honeybees. Do you know how to tell the difference? It’s important to stop and take a moment to identify which you are dealing with. Did you know that honeybees and yellow jackets are very different in appearance? Once you know what to look for, you can easily identify them:

honeybee-vs-yellow-jacket

Honeybees are furry and have amber or brown stripes. Yellow jackets are sleeker with shiny bodies and bold yellow color. If you ever want to ID a flying (or non-flying) insect, Raid® has a great Bug ID tool:

Honeybee vs. Yellow Jacket | Pretty Handy Girl

With a click of a finger you’ll have all the information you ever wanted to know about yellow jackets from the Raid® website. For starters, they are aggressive scavengers and seek out picnics for rotting fruit, meat and sugary sodas.

Here are a few tips to avoid inviting yellow jackets to your party or home:

  • Cover your picnic food and bring it out right before it’s time to eat.
  • An open trash can provides a party atmosphere for yellow jackets, so be sure to keep a lid on it.
  • Empty and rinse your recycled waste before putting it in the recycling bin.
  • Keep your doors and windows closed or protected with screens in the spring, summer and fall.
  • ALWAYS look in your drink before taking a sip outdoors!

Unlike honey bees (who die after the first sting), yellow jackets can sting multiple times without dying. And here’s the kicker: When they sting you, they release a pheromone that attracts more yellow jackets who are maddened by the scent and are driven to sting you as well. Ugh.

Flying Yellow Jacket | Pretty Handy Girl

If you spot yellow jackets in your yard, it’s a good idea to follow them to their nest. Yellow jackets build nests in the ground that are only visible as a small hole in the dirt. They also build papery nests up above (suspended under eaves, in trees, or other places overhead.) They rarely inhabit the same nest year after year, so be diligent about locating their new address. Yellow jackets are most active during the day. Once you locate the nest, you’ll want to safely kill their family before they can sting you or yours. When treating yellow jackets, please be sure children are inside and away from Raid® products and the nest.

But, how do you eliminate these nuisance insects? Raid® helps you find the appropriate product for your needs with the Raid® Defense System:

The site asks you a few important questions and then presents the appropriate treatment for your nuisance insects. Plus, they offer great tips for avoiding a problem infestation in the first place! For yellow jackets, the Raid® Wasp & Hornet Killer is the product for the job:

RAID Wasp & Hornet Spray | Pretty Handy Girl

The Raid® Wasp & Hornet Killer is the recommended product to kill wasps and hornets like yellow jackets.

Raid® Wasp & Hornet Killer allows you to stand firmly on the ground and up to 22 feet away from the target. I don’t know about you, but when I’m headed out solo against a swarm of yellow jackets, I wouldn’t want the proverbial ten foot pole. I want the 22 foot reach instead! The further you can be from the nest the better, as far as I’m concerned… Then show up at sundown or dawn’s first light. That’s when these fierce little buggers are least active. Stand as far away from the nest as you can and spray the steam with the wind, not into it. And obviously don’t spray directly overhead.

A personal word of wisdom, it is best to approach this showdown dressed in long sleeves and pants. Wear shoes and cover your body as much as you can.

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What if you discover that flying insect you were fearful of is a honey bee? Rest assured that bees are not aggressive. If you leave them alone they aren’t likely to sting you. And, did you know that honey bee populations are threatened and should be protected? Honeybees are beneficial pollinators and losing any beneficial insects is not good. Granted, if you discover a hive has been built in an inappropriate location, talk to a local beekeeper or consultant to help you relocate a bee population safely. Let’s do our best to protect those little furry guys.

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So get back outside and enjoy the summer in bare feet or barely dressed! And let your kids roam barefoot in the grass, it’s okay to have dirty feet. That’s what summer is all about!

Honeybee vs. Yellow Jacket | Pretty Handy Girl

P.s. Do you have another insect problem? Tweet @AskRaid on Twitter for answers to your most puzzling and burning questions about insects. In the meantime, I want to know if you’ve ever been stung by a yellow jacket. Was it in a worse spot than my tush? Do tell!

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Disclosure: This is a sponsored post for Raid® (an SC Johnson company). All opinions and ideas are my own. I was not told what to write or say about Raid®. To learn more about the Raid® Defense System or Bug ID, visit RaidKillsBugs.com

Comments

  1. If it is honey bees, you can often get them relocated for free. I had some a few summers ago and it was really easy to find a bee guy and they will come get the bees at no charge.

  2. Yes, I’ve been stung by yellow jackets! Ugh! Ouch!! They’d built a nest under our porch floor and we didn’t realize it. My husband decided to put a nail in a loose board on the other side, just as I happened to walk by the nest entrance… Six stings and lots of anithistimine later(I’m allergic!) we called in an exterminator to get rid of them since their nest was in a place we couldn’t reach without tearing down most of the porch. I spent the next couple of weeks walking around with lumps the size of silver dollars on my ankle, leg and arm! It was NOT fun!!!

  3. Thank you SO MUCH for posting this! I teach school and if anything flies around, kids are so, so afraid. I grew up playing outside all the time and learned early, don’t bother the bee, the bee won’t bother you. Honey bees are in danger and humans will be in danger, since so much of our food benefits from their pollination. Bees are gentle as are bumblebees, those big, fat, black and yellow bees. (you can even pet them…they sit on flowers and will put up a leg to let you know when they’ve had enough…hah!)
    Children don’t get out as much as they used to and I spent time this spring teaching just this lesson. Thanks, sweetie!

  4. When my two now-grown kids were preschool age, we were visiting a friend at her old house. The kids went out on a wooden porch and started getting stung by yellow jackets. I ran out after them, scooped them up and ran down the steps and away from the porch. We all got stung. Not fun. I was told to put toothpaste on the stings, and that seemed to help.

  5. Underground Nest Extermination.
    2013 was the year of the wasp around our house. I tried traps which work fairly well but they just couldn’t handle the larger problem of our underground nest. I tried many tips and tricks that don’t work. Wasp killer simply killed the first layer in the underground nest. What FINALLY worked was a night time assault of pouring a two LARGE pots of boiling water with a little dish detergent added in. The dish soap coats the wings to prevent them from flying and the boiled water melts through the waxy nest layers killing the larva and ending the next generational invation.

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