Considering how painful yellow jacket stings are, and how often they disrupt cookouts, it’s easy to hate them and wonder if yellow jackets are good for anything. It turns out these yellow-and-black annoyances do a lot of good.
Are Yellow Jackets Beneficial Insects?
Yellow jackets are a type of wasp. While they’re unwelcome guests at backyard barbecues, tailgating, etc. they help gardeners a great deal, whether the person knows it or not.
Yellow jackets assist with pollination, though because they aren’t fuzzy like honey bees or bumblebees, they aren’t very efficient at it. Yellow jackets are most beneficial to gardeners because of their eating habits, not their interest in flowers. In fact, in spring and early summer they’re more likely to be crawling in foliage than visiting flowers.
What Do Yellow Jackets Eat?
While yellow jackets are attracted to plant nectar and sweet items – which explains why they go after your sugary drinks and desserts – they need protein in the larval stage so yellow jackets hunt other insects and bring them back to the colony for the young. That’s why yellow jackets in a yard benefit gardeners.
Yellow jackets eat various annoying insects like flies, beetle grubs, cabbage worms, aphids, crickets and other insects that attack crops. They also eat spiders, which is more of a mixed issue since spiders also eat pests, though some spiders are quite dangerous. Yellow jackets will also eat caterpillars but before you accuse them of being butterfly killers realize that caterpillars also turn into annoying moths, not just pretty butterflies.
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Another way yellow jackets help the environment – they eat already dead bugs. That might not sound important, but experts know that it is… so thank yellow jackets for why your yard doesn’t fill up with dead bugs. Whether capturing live or dead insects, it’s estimated that yellow jackets consume more than two pounds of bugs from a 2,000-square-foot yard.
Yellow jacket activity around outdoor trashcans, cookouts, carnivals, etc. increases in the late summer and early fall because the bugs they ate earlier in the season are scarcer and they need to look for alternative food sources. That’s when they start going after your sugary drinks and leftovers. Yellow jackets are actually quite intelligent and learn. For example, they’ll only visit the picnic area of a park in the afternoon if that’s when food is around and skip it in the morning before the park opens because they recognize the pattern.
Most outdoor eaters fear having a yellow jacket crawl into their drink, especially dark cans of soda where they can’t be seen, and then getting stung when the person tries to drink their beverage unaware it has gathered insects. How can you avoid that? Don’t bring sugary drinks outside but if you do, keep them covered.
Found Yellow Jackets? Call Arrow!
While yellow jackets can be a benefit to your garden and the ecosystem at large, the location of a nest can make them dangerous to you and your family. Call Arrow Exterminating to first confirm whether it is a yellow jacket, something harmless or something even more dangerous. Then the experts at Arrow will discuss the right solution with you. To get started, contact Arrow Exterminating today.
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— Update: 10-02-2023 — cohaitungchi.com found an additional article About Yellow Jackets and the Benefits of Wasps in the Garden from the website www.motherearthnews.com for the keyword benefits of yellow jackets.
This article is part of ourOrganic Pest Control Series, which includes articles on attracting beneficial insects, controlling specific garden pests, and using organic pesticides.
The Yellow Jacket Wasp (Vespidae)
Yellow jacket wasps make irritating company at summer picnics, but they are extremely welcome visitors in the garden. These bright yellow-and-black striped wasps are slick and slender compared with honeybees, and are more likely to be found hunting among foliage than visiting flowers during the first half of summer. The food demands of growing yellow jacket colonies are so great that it has been estimated that more than 2 pounds of insects may be removed from a 2,000-square-foot garden by yellow jackets.
The benefits of yellow jackets come at a cost, because yellow jackets become dangerously aggressive when their nest is threatened. Nests are easiest to locate on warm summer mornings or evenings by carefully scanning the landscape for insects shooting up out of the ground. After you have located yellow jacket nests, decide whether they will stay or go. To neutralize a nest without using pesticides, cover the entry hole with a large translucent bowl or other cover, held in place with a brick. Be sure to approach yellow jacket nests at night, when the yellow jackets are at rest. Use flags or other markers to mark the locations of nests in acceptable places. Yellow jackets typically build new nests each year. Sometimes new yellow jacket nests appear in midsummer after old ones are damaged by foxes or other predators.
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What Do Yellow Jackets Eat?
Yellow jackets wasps feed their young liquefied insects, with caterpillars, flies and spiders comprising the largest food groups in the yellow jacket diet during most of the summer. In late summer, yellow jackets start looking for flower nectar and other sources of sugar, which are necessary nutrients for the next season’s queens. Meanwhile, fewer young are being raised in the nests, which leaves many individuals with little to do. At this point yellow jackets become an obnoxious presence outdoors, whether they are trying to steal your sandwich or swarming over apple cores in your compost.
How to Attract Yellow Jacket Wasps to Your Garden
Simply allowing selected nests to remain in place is all you must do to receive free pest control service from yellow jackets. Coexisting peacefully with yellow jackets is another issue, especially if you grow tree fruits. Yellow jackets eagerly feed on fallen apples, pears and other fruits, so wear a light glove when cleaning up the orchard. Bury fruit waste beneath 2 inches of soil, or establish a fruit waste compost pile far from your house, where the yellow jackets can eat their fill.
You can use passive traps made from soda bottles to trap yellow jackets lurking on your deck or patio starting in early fall, should they be a problem. Most of these individuals will die of natural causes before the beginning of winter, so you have little to lose by trapping them.
More information about yellow jacket wasps is available from Auburn University, North Carolina State University, and Michigan State University.