Yellow jackets are a predatory social wasp species that live in colonies consisting of up to several thousand insects. The colony starts from a single queen, the only fertilized female to survive during winter. The queen begins building a nest underground, where she raises her first brood of workers that take care of the first eggs of the season. By mid-summer, this colony can have as many as 5,000 workers. In these colonies, only a small number of males leave to start new colonies with fertilized queens during late summer or early fall.
Sometimes you might be wondering why you have so many yellow jackets flying in your yard. Keep reading as this article provides insight into what yellow jackets are attracted to in your yard!
What Plants Attract Yellow Jackets?
First of all, there are several species of plants that attract yellow jackets. The most popular include goldenrod, sunflowers, and serviceberry trees. The flower heads of the daisy family are also very attractive to these insects. The middle section of goldenrod flowers attracts them by releasing a chemical called 2-heptanone, similar to the one naturally produced by the yellow jacket larvae. Sunflowers release chemicals that mimic those present in honeybee hives.
These insects are not only attracted to certain types of flowers, but they also seek sources for water and protein through other active bugs or other decaying animal matter. This could be something as simple as an uncovered garbage can, spilled soda, or juice cup on your picnic table.
Apart from that, yellow jackets are also attracted by the smell of human sweat, which contains chemicals like short-chain fatty acids and lactic acid. Their attraction to this scent is because it is similar to the odors that they give off when they sting.
Are Yellow Jackets Pollinators?
Yes, yellow jackets are one of the most successful pollinators out there, right behind honey bees. They provide a great service in an ecosystem because they pollinate flowers as they collect pollen and nectar to feed larvae.
Keeping them around if you want your garden to produce fruits and vegetables is important. The more flowering plants you have in your yard, the more yellow jackets will come and nest there. They are also considered beneficial since they help to get rid of harmful insects in your yard.
Why Do Yellow Jackets Hover Over Grass?
Yellow jackets hover over grass because they are looking for carrion, insect larvae, or dead bugs decaying in the lawn soil and on the ground.
Even though these wasps can easily take up residence in a tree as well as a man-made structure such as an attic, they are primarily ground dwellers. If you notice a lot of them hovering over your lawn and flying out from one hole in the ground, it’s a clear sign that there is a yellow jacket nest there.
What Do Yellow Jackets Eat In The Yard?
Typically, yellow jackets are active during the day, so they will fly around your yard looking for food. Here, they eat a variety of insects and are known to eat flies, arachnids, caterpillars, beetle grubs, and other harmful insects.
Moreover, they enjoy eating nectar and sweet smelling substances such as tree sap or ripe fruits. The yellowjacket species that are attracted to flower heads use their tongues to get into the nectar and pollen. Once they get it on their legs, they carry it back to the nest, where larvae feed off it.
Other yellowjacket species prefer protein sources such as meat or oily fish. They might be drawn to trash and foods left behind by humans. As they are also attracted to rotten food, it is important to have garbage cans outside with tight-fitting lids.
These insects can be very persistent and aggressive if you try to get rid of them by swatting them or spraying pesticides, or you come too close to their nest. Their instinct is to protect their nest, especially the larvae. If the wasp feels threatened, it will use its stinger to defend against predators.
Do Yellow Jackets Nest In The Ground And Grass?
Yes, yellow jackets will nest and live in the ground and under the grass. Usually, they build their nests just below the surface. The nest has its entrance hidden under thick grass or a dense bush.
They are opportunistic scavengers, so they build their nests where food is abundant. If you have an old tree or a pile of rocks on your property, this could be a good place for the colonies to build nests throughout the summer season. They build a nest mostly in the soil, on lawns, and in bushes. This is where the larvae will hatch and grow as the season progresses.
Oftentimes, they will set up their nests in rodent burrows that have been abandoned or other cavities in the ground. These nests are paper-like, the size of a soccer ball, and can reach a depth of 4 feet.
What Happens If You Mow Over Their Nest?
If you mow over their nest, yellow jackets will become aggressive towards anyone who ventures into that area. They are very defensive creatures, so they will attack anything that comes into close contact with their nest.
Thus, be careful, as disturbing and mowing over their nest will make them furious and sting you persistently. The best way to avoid being stung is to stay away from these nests if possible. In addition, mowing the lawn too often disturbs their environment.
If you need help eliminating a yellow jacket nest from your yard, call Wildlife Troopers in South Florida immediately! Our pest and wildlife control professionals have the experience, skills, and tools to safely take care of yellow jackets or other stinging insects in no time.