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Nothing ruins outdoor summer fun like the painful sting of a wasp. Or was that a yellow jacket? When you're on the receiving end of a stinger, it might not make a difference to you. But when it’s time to treat your home or business for these pests, the difference matters. Wasps and yellow jackets have been constructing their nests and reproducing since early spring, but the summer months are when they’re most active outside their nests and when you are more likely to notice an infestation. How do you know which insect you’re dealing with and how can you protect your home or business from an infestation?
Wasps are found in nearly every part of the world, except the polar regions, and we certainly have our share in southwest Missouri. The varieties we see most often are paper wasps and hornets. Wasps are carnivores and usually prey on other live insects, such as caterpillars. They have slender bodies with yellow, red, and brown markings. Some species live alone but for the most part, wasps are social insects and live in colonies, like ants and bees. Their honeycomb-patterned nests are made from plant fiber (which gives them a papery look), mud, and a material the wasps secrete. Each colony has a queen, and only the queen survives the winter to re-establish the colony and rebuild the nest the following spring.
Yellow jackets are a sub-species of wasps, although they are often mistaken for bees because of the black and yellow markings on their bodies. They are a particularly aggressive insect and unlike bees, they have the ability to sting their prey more than once. Bees are equipped with a barbed stinger that breaks off when they sting, but yellow jackets have a smooth stinger and are ruthlessly repetitive when they attack. These insects are scavengers and usually feed on dead animals or trash. They’re also attracted to sources of protein and sugar, as anyone who’s been pestered by one at a picnic can attest. A yellow jacket nest can grow to the size of a basketball and by the end of the summer, it may contain as many as 5,000 insects.
Because wasps and yellow jackets look similar from a distance, it’s hard to tell the difference between them. And most of us would prefer not to get close enough to get a better look. One way you can tell them apart is to locate their nests. Wasps like to build aerial nests around doors, entryways, and soffits. Yellow jackets typically build their nests underground, often inside tunnels built by rodents, or near the ground in shrubbery or plant roots. If you’re mowing the lawn and you’re suddenly surrounded by stinging insects, you’ve probably just run over a yellow jacket nest. If you're sipping lemonade on the back porch and feel a series of painful stings, check the overhangs and eaves - there’s probably a wasp nest nearby.
Trying to remove a wasp or yellow jacket nest on your own is extremely dangerous, especially for those who are allergic to their venom. Whether you’re allergic or not, it’s important to keep in mind that these are aggressive insects and there may be hundreds of them living in what appears to be a small nest. Some species of wasps release a pheromone when they sting that signals to the rest of the colony that an attack is underway and reinforcements are needed. Hiring a licensed pest control professional is the safest way to protect your home or business if you discover a nest or suspect an infestation.
Your pest control technician will probably want to treat your home or business early in the morning while it's a little cooler. Wasps and yellow jackets tend to be more docile during these hours. At Homefront Pest Protection, we use a highly effective, professional-grade wasp spray that instantly kills yellow jackets and others kinds of wasps before they can attack. Homeowners may also want to keep a can of wasp spray near the door in case there are any stragglers that were not inside the nest when treatment was applied.
With over a decade of experience treating southwest Missouri’s bugs, including wasps and yellow jackets, Homefront is ready to help. We’re equipped with safe, effective products to exterminate your current pest control issues, and we offer a variety of protection plans that include preventative maintenance to prepare your home or business for next season’s pests. If wasps or yellow jackets are pestering you, contact us today about how we can help.