Animals In Appalachia Appalachia

Have You Seen Any Yellow Jackets?

yellow jacket

About a week ago Don Casada sent me an email to ask if I’d seen any yellow jackets this year.

I hadn’t really noticed their absence until Don sent me the email.

Once I started thinking about it I realized I hadn’t seen any all summer.

For the past few years we’ve had a pesky nest of yellow jackets just outside the backdoor. They somehow wormed their way into the block foundation. Every time you’d go down the steps off the deck on that side they’d start humming around. One year you could even hear them in their nest from the basement. I guess they were working on filling up the inside of the blocks.

The Deer Hunter always managed to run them out only to have them return the following year. But no yellow jackets this year. Not one.

Last weekend I was drying some apples and thought “This will be the real test. I’ll throw my apple peelings on the compost pile and go back later to see if there’s any yellow jackets.”

When I went back to check late in the evening there wasn’t one bee. Not one.

The reason Don sent the email in the first place is that he’s noticed the absence of yellow jackets in Bryson City. Don takes care of a large cemetery and typically has several run-ins with yellow jackets over the course of the summer as he works. Not this year. Don also noticed there were no bothersome yellow jackets on a recent picnic he went on.

He also sent the email to his brother Jim, who reported the same occurrence of missing yellow jackets in South Carolina where he lives.

Several people have thrown around theories about what could have caused the disappearance. Was it the late cold snap we had? Could it be all the wet weather we had? Pesticides are always a worry where bees are concerned, but there’s none in use here or at Jim and Don’s and certainly not in the National Park where the picnic took place.

What about where you live have you seen any yellow jackets this summer? I have seen honey bees, bumble bees and waspers, but no yellow jackets. I can’t really recall seeing any hornets either.


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  • Reply
    P.A. Hughes-Briant
    August 15, 2020 at 11:03 am

    Here in North central Montana we usually have hornets in the eaves of the house and cabin. This year…not a one.

  • Reply
    Wayne Hipkins
    August 14, 2020 at 3:22 pm

    Have seen no yellow jackets here in south-central Va. this year but have seen honey bees, wasps, & lots of carpenter bees.

  • Reply
    August 13, 2020 at 9:33 pm

    Very interesting. Live in Northern VA. Haven’t seen any yellow jackets or wasps by us. (And we normally do. There always seems to be a nest starting somewhere on the front porch.) When our lavender bloomed this spring we had dozens of bumblebees on the lavender plants – so definitely have seen those.

  • Reply
    August 13, 2020 at 9:31 pm

    I haven’t noticed any here either, kinda weird, always have a few around especially where you throw out scraps.

  • Reply
    Sanford Mckinney, Jr.
    August 13, 2020 at 7:10 pm

    I have not seen one of them this year in Kingsport TN.

  • Reply
    August 13, 2020 at 3:57 pm

    Mm Tipper, now that you’ve mentioned it, I haven’t seen any here in Greeneville Tn. I really didn’t pay no attention untill now. We That’s really odd too. I’m not going to mind it cause I don’t like them.

  • Reply
    Granny Sue
    August 13, 2020 at 3:50 pm

    We saw one last week–but they usually don’t show up here until mid-August, when ripe apples and peaches are dropping from the trees.

  • Reply
    August 13, 2020 at 3:20 pm

    I haven’t seen any yellow jackets either, in the suburbs of Richmond, Virginia, nor our camper at the Chesapeake Bay in Deltaville, Virginia. We had them in the wall upstairs about 10 years ago and had to call an exterminator. They were tough to destroy.

  • Reply
    John T
    August 13, 2020 at 1:02 pm

    I have not seen hardly any yellow jackets up where Im at in Minnesota. It even took the bumblebees awhile to show up. They are now all over my cucumbers and a sage plant which they love. I can remember having to keep an eye on my pop can if I was having one outside… those yellow jackets love to get in there.

  • Reply
    Rooney Floyd
    August 13, 2020 at 10:12 am

    I have not noticed as many as usual here in Aiken SC but we do still get a few around the humming bird feeder.

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    August 13, 2020 at 9:59 am

    I sent notes to several folks that I knew got out and about, and asked about whether they’d spotted any yellow jackets. Most said they’d not seen any, but I did get an affirmative response from James Womack, a Macon County native who now lives over outside of Asheville.

    James found a nest this year in the wall of his house – much like the one you talked about at your place, Tipper. They were going in and out around an electrical outlet on the side of his house. Being both an engineer and, more importantly, a mountain boy, he came up with a cure. He duct taped the reduced nozzle attachment of his wet/dry shop vac underneath the hole they were going in and out of, and put some soapy water in the vac. That did the trick. The vacuum sucked them in and they drowned in the soapy water.

    Other than one nest which I found in a wall a few years back at the cemetery, all of the yellow jacket nests I’ve encountered have been in the ground. My standard treatment is to mark the hole location by tossing a stick near it during the day and then go back after dark and pour gas or kerosene down the hole. If I found the nest by sense of sight, that is all I’d do. But if I find it by sense of feel, I light it and then do a dance. That definitely reduces the swelling and itching from the stings.

  • Reply
    Robert Mitchell
    August 13, 2020 at 9:17 am

    We live in Telford,tn. We have seen some yellow jackets,but very few.
    In fact,not many bee’s or waspers for that matter

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    August 13, 2020 at 9:15 am

    Well I have not been so lucky. I’ve got ’em! I’ve been stung! I’ve been battling a large nest inside the siding at the back of my house all summer. They’re inside the siding. I’ve sprayed them with Black Flag and Spectracide and they won’t die. There is a hole about the size of a quarter where they come in and out of. I sprayed them once and thought I had ’em. I watched and they weren’t using the hole so I sprayed inside it as much as I could then taped over it with some really sticky tape. I kept watching for several days. No yeller jackets. But day before yesterday I looked again. Yup! They had made a hole in the tape and were working again, in spades. They were coming in and going out three and four at a time. I sprayed again then and again yesterday. I haven’t been out there today.
    Dirt daubers and wasps are in no shortage here either. Every little hole is filled with red clay dirt which rivals a brick on the hardness scale. I have noticed more honey bees this year but they are the black ones. I am used to seeing blonde ones. Bumblebees are a plenty too but they are not the big ones. The blooms on my beans, cukes and Chinese okra have been abuzz with honey bees, bumblebees and wasps but I’ve only been stung by them little yeller demons.
    One strange thing I have noticed. When I take my daily piece of watermelon outside nothing bothers me. Not even flies and gnats. But that’s only when I sit down in the shade to eat watermelon. They still harass me to no end when I am working and sweaty. Another thing is the absence of stink bugs. This the first year in a long time that they haven’t spewed forth by the billions it seems.
    I’ve also noticed more of the discarded exoskeletons of jarflies (cicada) this year. I’m not hearing more though. They are here but they’re not singing I guess. Must be the social distancing thing.
    In short, still plenty of everything here in the suburbs of Connelly Springs.

  • Reply
    J. Wayne Fears
    August 13, 2020 at 9:06 am

    Haven’t seen any yellow jackets here in the Cumberland Mountains of north Alabama. I usually get into their nest when mowing around pasture edges but not a one this year. We have noticed an increase in honey bee populations and that is good news.

  • Reply
    August 13, 2020 at 9:00 am

    I have not seen one yellow jacket this year and the hornets didn’t build their nest in my trees as they have for years. The experts say they return to the same area year after year. My daughter has tried to get her honey bees to live longer than six months, but has had no luck for three years now. She’s ready to give up due to the expense of replacing them. The huge farm/venue next door uses lots of chemicals. The lack of bees is definitely something else to worry about.

  • Reply
    Dan O’Connor
    August 13, 2020 at 8:42 am

    Now that you mention it there have been none that I’ve seen in Maryville, TN. I have seen wasps. I never miss seeing yellow jackets!

  • Reply
    August 13, 2020 at 8:39 am

    They might be here but I can’t see them through the cloud of mosquitoes 🙁

  • Reply
    aw griff
    August 13, 2020 at 8:39 am

    I haven’t seen any here at my home near Ashland KY. I usually have one or two in the yard that I find while mowing grass. Unfortunately, my friend got stung by yellow jackets on our family farm while opening the metal gate. The yellow jackets had made their nest in the hollow tubing.
    I’ve looked for honey bees all summer and have seen less this year than ever before. I also haven’t seen the bumblebees I usually see. Most Summers I have at least one nest of them. The small ones that makes their nest in the ground like yellow jackets. Dad told me that when he was a boy he dug up one of their nest and ate the honey that was made in small balls. He also said it wasn’t very good.

  • Reply
    August 13, 2020 at 8:28 am

    Plenty of yellow jackets here in Belmont, NC, under the pear trees, and especially on the figs. We have several hives of honeybees here, so we are careful about insecticides. When we do find a nest of yellow jackets, we plug in our old bug buster and set it down at the entrance to their nest. They will come out and attack it and get fried. Works great.

  • Reply
    Brenda Schlosser
    August 13, 2020 at 8:24 am

    My husband just knocked down a huge nest of yellow jackets on the top peak of a gable over our garage door. I’m in Colorado, just northeast of Denver.

  • Reply
    Kay Paul
    August 13, 2020 at 8:17 am

    The yellow jackets must have all moved down here in south Alabama. I’ve seen lots of them around lately, especially out in the garden when the plants were blooming heavily. I met one up close a few weeks ago while cutting grass in the back yard. He seemed to take it personally when I ran the mower over the hole to his home in the ground and quickly popped me on the hand. They may be little insects, but they sure can inflict a painful sting!

  • Reply
    W.L. smythers
    August 13, 2020 at 8:16 am

    I haven’t seen any yellowjackets here in Galax, Virginia. There have been fewer bees in general this year. I have mostly wasps flying around.

  • Reply
    August 13, 2020 at 8:12 am

    I have not thought about it, but I have not seen any yellow jackets or dirt dauber or many wasp this year in Greenville county, SC this year. Sorry to be this way, but after all the run ins I have had over the years while on tractor, cutting grass etc. I don’t miss them very much. You need to experience plowing a nest up while on a tractor. or bushing hogging to know why I feel like this. My wife saw me get into a nest while cutting grass with push mower, her comment was I didn’t know you could run that fast. Do you think I could have got away with murder?

  • Reply
    Roger Fingar
    August 13, 2020 at 8:07 am

    For the last couple years I’ve been reading about entomologists being alarmed at crashing insect populations – huge percentages of loss throughout a large number of species throughout the world, even remote areas where pesticides shouldn’t be an issue. This doesn’t bode well for all species of life.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    August 13, 2020 at 7:45 am

    None here in north Hall County, Georgia. I had not thought about it but I have been throwing out a lot of apple peels, watermelon rind, cantaloupe rind, tomato peels, etc all of which should have brought the yellow jackets. And the birds are knocking off apples which should have gotten their attention. But we have had none here. About a mile away a runner on a woods trail did get stung, probably because of a nest in the bank beside the trail. This is about the time of year the population would be at its greatest so to see none is really astonishing.

    Don noticing their absence is an example of the kind of ecological knowledge those who work on and/or with nature glean; little bits here and there to a noticing person. And that is one reason why there is often wisdom in traditions. They have a basis in observation and experience. His observation also goes to show me that though I had the same opportunity, I did not notice.

  • Reply
    Janet Smart
    August 13, 2020 at 7:24 am

    Tipper, I haven’t seen any yellow jackets here in West Virginia, either. I was expecting some when we did our corn up in the front yard a few weeks ago, but none showed up and there isn’t any under the apple trees, either. Like you, I wonder what happened to them.

    • Reply
      August 13, 2020 at 8:12 am

      They are alive and thriving here in East TN, I encountered several last week in our orchard as I was picking up fallen apples.

  • Reply
    Krista Lambert
    August 13, 2020 at 7:16 am

    We found a huge yellow jacket’s nest behind an oil tank a few weeks ago. Our poor dog actually found them and was stung several times. Then my husband found one in the wood shed. I thought it was strange for us to find two above ground because they are almost always underground here. We live in Cherokee.

    • Reply
      Margie Goldstein
      August 13, 2020 at 8:29 am

      Yellow jackets are alive, well and as mean as ever in Bluefield, WV. I’m going to go along in saying they’re aren’t as many as in years past but they are around. I saw a bee literally wandering in circles on my porch for hours and the same for June bugs. The end result is all the same- widespread crop failure because of a lack of pollinators. The devastation has yet to be fully comprehended but I’d say Glycophosphates and 5 G have a real effect on us all who have to live on earth. Pray up and look up is all I can tell you….

  • Reply
    Leslie A Lucas
    August 13, 2020 at 7:09 am

    Haven’t seen any here in Clearfield county, Pennsylvania either which is ok to me. Love this site & the songs

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    August 13, 2020 at 7:05 am

    Tipper–I’ve since inquired about yellow jackets with a local, well-known naturalist and several others. None have seen the first one. I also don’t have any dirt daubers around, and I usually have them trying to build in protected places all around the house and garage.
    What I find most surprising is that I haven’t seen a single word about this anywhere in the press. You have to wonder whether folks like you and Don, who pay attention to things while are out and about, are more closely attuned to nature’s vibes than the supposed experts.

    Jim Casada

    • Reply
      Lathan Roddey
      August 13, 2020 at 10:24 am

      I live in Sumter SC ,, have seen a few yellow jacket nests but not many ,, but we do have an abundance of wasps , especially guinea wasp nests in the Wateree Swamp

  • Reply
    Rebecca Layfield
    August 13, 2020 at 6:56 am

    None here in Odenville, Alabama either!! Lots of red wasp though!! Like you said bumble bees, carpenter bees, sweat bees but no yellow jackets!!

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    August 13, 2020 at 6:40 am

    I hadn’t thought about it but no I don’t recall seeing yellow jackets. I have, however had some big yellow bees that I don’t recall seeing before. They are yellow and about twice the size or more than yellow jackets. I also have some very large black bees. I’ve wondered about both these (I think) new big bees.

  • Reply
    Ed Karshner
    August 13, 2020 at 6:30 am

    Now that you mention it, not really. There was one lonely yellow jacket that showed up on the porch last week during lunch. Usually, they are much worse.

    What I’ve noticed is the lack of wasps. Those are our main pests. But, I don’t recall seeing any.


  • Reply
    Jeff Williams
    August 13, 2020 at 6:14 am

    Now that you mention it, no yellow jackets on my property this year either. Crossville, Tennessee

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