Animals In Appalachia

The Yellow Jackets are Back

Yellow Jacket Bee

About this time last year I shared a post with you discussing the lack of yellow jackets. Here’s a portion of it:

“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.”


When I wrote the post about the missing yellow jackets several other folks noted they were missing from their summer landscape too.

Well let me tell you yellow jackets are back in Wilson Holler by the teeming millions. I mean you can’t walk in the yard without seeing them brewing about your feet like they’re part of an impending plague.

The Deer Hunter is one of those folks who somehow attract bees of all kinds. We can all be outside somewhere together and a bee will hone in on him making, well making a bee line, straight for his head. It’s sort of uncanny how attracted bees are to him 🙂

This summer The Deer Hunter has been stung several times by yellow jackets while walking in the yard or out the trail behind the house.

One day he came in and said “Well I’ve got stung again.” He was out along the trail fiddling with a deer stand and suddenly realized he was straddling a yellow jacket nest. Needless to say he got out of there in a hurry. But not before a yellow jacket hitch-hiked a ride indoors with him.

It was the funniest thing. I was at my computer typing and he came in to tell me about the latest sting and a bee literally flew off his back and started circling the room.

I reminded him about my post from last year. He said “Well I’ve found where they all went, they moved all their nests to our side of the mountain.”

The yellow jackets are also back in our block foundation. I’ve never seen yellow jackets as active as they are this year. All I can figure is they’re in a frenzy to make up for what ever happened last summer.


Last night’s video: Making Kraut Cake in Appalachia

Tipper

Subscribe for FREE and get a daily dose of Appalachia in your inbox

You Might Also Like

36 Comments

  • Reply
    Vann Helms
    August 25, 2021 at 9:45 am

    I keep a saucer near the back door that has a layer of WD-40 always at the ready. Yellow Jacket stings are rare here, but when one pops me, I dab the WD-40 on the spot, and it stops the pain, and draws out most of the venom. It still turns red and swells up, but there is little more pain. Also works for wasps, chiggers, mosquito bites, and even poison ivy. It’s a derivative of fish oil, so it has never hurt me. I swear by it…..

  • Reply
    Kat Swanson
    August 11, 2021 at 10:40 pm

    It’s late and all these comments make me very nervous….I’m going to sleep with my epi pen tonight.

  • Reply
    Ann Ullery
    August 11, 2021 at 8:05 pm

    Yellow Jackets and I had quite a nasty run-in many many years ago. I was around 7 or 8 years old, living in Pennsylvania with my Grandparents on their small farm. We had a lot of antiques on the farm, including an old hand pump well that ended up being an attractive decoration on a small deck in the front lawn. It was late summer and I was running around the yard like a maniac showing off to some folks who had dropped by for a visit. For some unknown reason, I began pumping that old hand pump – I guess to show how strong I was. All of a sudden a swarm of Yellow Jackets flew out of the pump and swarmed around my head. Ended up getting stung several times on my lips!! Needless to say I ran to the house screaming and crying. You know how some people look after getting Botox? Well, you guessed it – my lips were so swollen that I couldn’t speak or eat for a couple of days. What a way to get a face lift – LOL!!!

  • Reply
    Dennis M Morgan
    August 11, 2021 at 6:52 pm

    My wife is like the Deer Hunter; insects are very attracted to her. It is really unusual to see. The only trouble I ever had with insects on camping trips was with yellow jackets (or ground hornets) as we call them here. When I would go camping with the Scouts I would take a tube of sting kill, a Sawyer’s venom extractor, and some Benadryl tablets. It you can use the Sawyer extractor shortly after you are stung it helps a lot. Then I would put sting kill on the sting. I never had to use Benadryl but I had it just in case. I never had to use it for a snake bit so I don’t know if the extractor would work for that but it defiantly works on hornet stings. It is worth having around the house. Be prepared.

  • Reply
    Pippin baker
    August 11, 2021 at 5:28 pm

    Hey, Tipper, I’m posting this from Australia, to ,show you that WE HAVE DANGEROUS THINGS N BUGS N ALL OVER HERE TOO LOL, I hope you have a laugh, it is THE BEST MEDICINE, Lotsa love Miss Pippi from over THE POND!https://youtu.be/eNEeq5qGh8I

    • Reply
      Tipper
      August 11, 2021 at 6:40 pm

      Pippin-wonderful! Thank you for sharing the video 🙂

  • Reply
    Donald Wells
    August 11, 2021 at 3:18 pm

    Yellow Jackets alive and well here in my neck of the woods.(Knox County Tennessee)They sure pack a punch!!This time of the year, they can really be aggressive. Keep your distance, and stay safe.

  • Reply
    Lori Hughes
    August 11, 2021 at 2:02 pm

    I think my hubby found some up here in Nova Scotia. He was 10 minutes away at one of our rental properties and he whipped in the yard, ran through the house, up the stairs, all the while yelling, “anti histamine!!!” In his very Welsh accent and it took me a minute or 2 to figure out what he was saying! He had 9 rapidly swelling wasp stings and one on his butt that he sat on when he jumped in the truck. Luckily the Benadryl and witch hazel worked quickly!

  • Reply
    Alexis Mohr
    August 11, 2021 at 1:15 pm

    I’ve never seen a blue bee so I looked them up. I don’t know if these are the bees you saw, Miss Cindy, but I found a link that talks about Blue Orchard Mason Bee (Osmia lignaria). Here is the link, if anyone is interested: https://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/pollinators/pollinator-of-the-month/mason_bees.shtml

    • Reply
      Miss Cindy
      August 11, 2021 at 2:34 pm

      No, that’s not it. The ones I have are much bigger, longer and skinner, blue/black and mean looking!

      • Reply
        Randy
        August 11, 2021 at 5:13 pm

        Miss Cindy do you think these bees you describe might be dirt daubers. If they are they will not hurt you or at least I have never been hurt by one.

  • Reply
    Ray Presley
    August 11, 2021 at 12:43 pm

    Looks like nobody has any good idea regarding the temporary absence of our favorite bee. So…I’ll offer my own opinion. It all boils down to anger. We all know that they’re naturally mean. We also know that being angry all the time uses a lot of energy. The Queen Mother suffers most, because when the workers are tired, they tend to slow down, go on strike and neglect their responsibility to keep her happy…and we then with momma bee unhappy, everything falls apart. Enjoy it while it lasts.

  • Reply
    Mohnie
    August 11, 2021 at 12:09 pm

    Hi Tipper,
    Our summer, so far, has been one long procession of bugs. Here in Berks County, southeastern Pa we started out with the 17 year cicada. They were everywhere. You could hear the “whirling” sound they made even in the house with the windows closed. After they were gone the Japanese Beetles showed up. they were here for a while and then followed the regular cicada that are usually here this time of year. Just the other day we started seeing the Lantern Flies. When they are in full force and swarm they look like what the plague of locust must of looked like in the bible. When you see them coming you want to run for cover. They don’t sting or bite but they do destroy trees and grape vines. And I don’t want to forget our stink bugs. All this said, as I think about it I haven’t seen as many yellow jackets either. I guess it’s just too crowded for them.

  • Reply
    harry adams
    August 11, 2021 at 12:01 pm

    We have very few this year but an over abundance last year. I have not seen one on the bumper crop of peaches. The honey bees are enjoying them though. Last year the yellow jackets devoured my raspberries. I was stung twice when picking. I have pheromone traps out this year with no activity in them. Last year 2 bags were filled with the nasty creatures. Odd there is so much difference 600 miles apart.

  • Reply
    Charla
    August 11, 2021 at 11:59 am

    They’re chasing away all my hummers.

  • Reply
    Cynthia
    August 11, 2021 at 11:28 am

    I haven’t seen any around our house, but ten years ago or so, somehow we had a nest in our house and had to call someone whose specialty was yellow jackets, wasps, etc. to take care of the problem. The one time I was stung by one, it felt like I had been jabbed in the leg with a needle. There was a nest of them a couple of weeks ago in the field where we go camping and one of the owners was stung a number of times. Folks were asked to stay out of the field. Bugs of all sorts love my husband.

  • Reply
    Jeanne
    August 11, 2021 at 11:27 am

    The yellow jackets are alive and well in Wisconsin. I have had several stings, as have my husband and grandson. We spray and spray and check under the deck, under the eves, around the recycle bin, any where we think they are hiding, but yesterday my husband got stung filling the bird feeders. Even with the birds coming and going, they had started a nest on one of the feeders.
    I can’t say they are worse than last year, as we always seem to get our share. The roofers are coming tomorrow, so I hope they don’t run into any problems. I did buy more hornet spray yesterday. They may need it.

  • Reply
    Gene Smith
    August 11, 2021 at 10:36 am

    I’ve never noticed a summer without yellow jackets, but I’m not saying we didn’t have them. When I was 12 or 13, I used to dig their nests out of the ground and use the larvae for fish bait. (Wasp larvae too.) Got stung some, but a raincoat, a hat, gloves and a towel around my face worked pretty good. I always tied my pants legs close around my boots.

  • Reply
    Gigi
    August 11, 2021 at 10:06 am

    I sure don’t like em. We hadn’t seen to many here either. But that’s ok with me.

  • Reply
    PinnacleCreek
    August 11, 2021 at 9:41 am

    Maybe that is why my squash did so bad last year. As pesky and bad as yellow jackets are I suppose they serve a wothwhile purpose by pollinating all the many things we don’t seem to have as many honey bees for anymore. I was just reading on squash and some of the reasons there might be a poor showing.

    I seem to have the same bad luck as the Deer Hunter. I was stung multiple times year after year mowing grass while my neighbors blissfully mowed away without harm. My Dad who had a very close kinship with nature always told me they get meaner in late Summer readying for the Winter. Not sure that is true, but my stings did always seem to start when August rolled around or bean picking time. I did notice in my zeal to eradicate them from my yard that they often have an entrance and exit or two holes. To find their nests I learned to watch late in the evening to see where they were hovering. Good post Tipper!

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    August 11, 2021 at 9:32 am

    I remember your post last year and my problem. I had a nest of yellow jackets in the siding on the back of my house. A very big nest judging by the size of the hole they made. Yes they had chewed a hole in the siding. Vinyl siding!
    I sprayed and sprayed with insect killer to no avail. I think they thrived on it. I went out at night and put duct tape over the hole. They ate right through it. Not duck tape like from Wally World, duct tape like they use in building. It is a metal foil over cloth tape. I couldn’t use gasoline because I was afraid they might have chewed into the wiring in the wall and if it shorted out a spark might ignite the whole wall.
    I finally came up with a solution that worked. I set up a shop-vac with the nozzle close enough to the hole that the bees could get in but the suction would pull them in. Those inside couldn’t get past the vacuum either. I let that run for 3-4 days solid. In the meantime I got some expanding spray foam in a can with a long straw. On the last night I went out with a flashlight and took away the vacuum, plugged the intake and outlet and filled every void I could reach up in the wall with the foam. I left the vacuum for about a week before I got the nerve to open it. When I finally opened it, it had about a quart of dead yellowjackets in it. That didn’t seem like a lot until I started to count out 100. That was about a tablespoon full. I stopped counting.
    This year I’ve seen every kind of stinging insects you can imagine except yellow jackets. None!

  • Reply
    Shirl
    August 11, 2021 at 8:53 am

    The Deer Hunter needs to get The Bug Bite Thing Venom Remover. I bought six this summer due to so many of my family being allergic to bee stings. My grandson took his to the lake and announced that I saved his life after a wasp stung his shoulder and the thing kept him away from the ER as he remained pain free.
    I have not seen any yellow jackets this year. It’s too hot to go outside and look for them today, but I am curious.

  • Reply
    EJ
    August 11, 2021 at 8:51 am

    You have to be extra careful with yellow jackets when on picnics.
    The yellow jackets have gotten into soft drink cans and when you takes a chug of your drink Bam you get stung inside you mouth..a Medical emergency for sure…use capped bottles for drinks…
    Be Safe

  • Reply
    Margie G
    August 11, 2021 at 8:47 am

    Yellow jackets are actually hornets and not bees at all! Bees are docile creatures whereas yellow jackets are awfully mean and evil!!! When I was a kid, they attacked me on a swing. I got stung until my eyes closed for several days and I felt like I was dying. I’d say about 10 stings or thereabout was what got me. I found a nest in my succulents rock garden so I hope you guessed what I did. If you wait until sunset you can put gasoline in their hole, cover the hole, and those demons will die- all of them and you’ll not risk a sting! Do not light the hole you gas or you could burn yourself out of house and home. Trust me cause I did epidemiology for the USARMY. It’s my bag. I watched a neighbor gas his yellow jacket holes, then he lit a hole and his whole yard went up in flames. He was terrified. I was amused at his fire dancing and panic. Let’s end this by saying yellow jackets are the scourge of an outdoorsman!!!! Lol

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    August 11, 2021 at 8:47 am

    Hmmm I am not (yet?) seeing yellow jackets here. I have not found any with the lawnmower nor seen any down at the compost pile where all the corn cobs, tomato peels, melon rind etc go. Haven’t even seen any (though I haven’t really looked) on the bird-pecked apples.

    I’m glad you bring up things like this. The best way to learn what nature does is to be an observing person, like you or Don Casada. Looking without seeing or seeing without understanding doesn’t get us very far. And Nature is such a complex book it takes a lot of noticing to begin to put the pieces together. It may be that yellow jacket populations are cyclical for unknown reasons. I wonder if fire ants (which I have) have anything to do with it. I don’t think they affect Japanese beetle populations though.

  • Reply
    Randy
    August 11, 2021 at 8:30 am

    I have only had one nest this year and it was In some left over hay under a shed. The nest could been seen and my son sprayed it down with wasp and hornet spray just as was about dark. This took care of the problem.Anytime I found a nest in the ground I wait until just about too dark to see and pour a small amount ( about a pint) of gasoline down the hole. That has always taken care of them.

    When the county road maintenance crews first begin to get tractors with enclosed cabs on them they would park them in my yard overnight. I said to one of the workers I bet you enjoy the air condition cab his answer was yes I do but I enjoy seeing those yellow jackets on the outside windows knowing they can no longer get to me even more. Unless you have bushed hog or plowed up a nest while on a tractor you can not fully understand or appreciate his answer.

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    August 11, 2021 at 8:30 am

    They are back this year in Swain County, for sure. Susan got a sting on her stomach while hanging out clothes on the line back in early July. It was a pretty active nest for that early, but by the next morning it was defunct.

    I put out yellow jacket traps in the spring on the cemetery grounds and have only run into one nest – which I fortunately saw before getting nailed.

    I’ll tell you something that has come with a vengeance this year – poison ivy. There’s always some hanging around, but it seems to be way more widely distributed this year.

    On the positive side of things, it’s been a very good year for garden produce and flowers.

  • Reply
    Leah
    August 11, 2021 at 8:16 am

    We definitely have yellow jackets here in southeast OH. I have hummingbird feeders that they will not leave alone!

  • Reply
    Don Byers
    August 11, 2021 at 8:16 am

    2-3 years ago my old Blairsville childhood friend Charlotte Rogers Guest stepped on a yellow jackets nest in Cobb County Ga and was stung multiple times. The stings sent her blood pressure off the scale resulting in a brain bleed. She is now an invalid after after many months in rehab.

    • Reply
      Tipper
      August 11, 2021 at 1:46 pm

      Don-that is so sad.

  • Reply
    Sanford McKinney
    August 11, 2021 at 8:16 am

    Speaking of bees, I do not believe I have seen one Honey Bee in our yard this year. That is unusual around our house since they used to be working my wife’s flowers, constantly. There seems to be very few Bumble Bees as well.
    The most stings I can ever remember getting by Yellow Jackets at one time was five when I ran across their nest with a lawn mower. I would have gotten many more stings had I not run like “a streak of lighting”.

  • Reply
    Denise R
    August 11, 2021 at 7:37 am

    I found the first nest in our yard right in the border of a flower bed as I was weeding a little over a month ago. Compared to most nests we find, this one was small. Got stung once right when I noticed them and I ran out as fast as I could. We put boric acid at the entrance, which takes a while to work, since I didn’t want to burn the nest and hurt my flowers. But a racoon found them after a few days and torn up the nest looking for the larvae, so he finished them off for us. At least that racoon was good for taking care of the yellow jackets, otherwise we don’t want them around here since they can be destructive and just nasty to deal with. Anyways back to the yellow jackets, we usually find a nest of them here every year in a mole run in our front yard. This year we have a hornets nest close by. They’ve been buzzing around our front porch on a daily basis. Also when we have hornets around, we don’t have very many mosquitos, so we’ll take that trade off for sure!

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    August 11, 2021 at 6:49 am

    Tip, it seems to me that there are more of all the bugs this year and especially bees. I have a bunce of big blue-black shinney bees, mean looking, and they somehow get into the laundry room on the back of the house.
    There also seems to be more flys than usual. Guess it’s just natures cycle of things!

    • Reply
      SusieQ
      August 11, 2021 at 7:39 am

      While I haven’t seen any yellow jackets lately (we haven’t gone camping this year -yet ☺️) …. We do have our Kentucky share of wasp, ticks , hornets, chiggers, mosquitoes, knats, mayflies,and more … getting stung is no fun , whew …makes for a big red swelling on me. Granddaddy told me a story about hornets chasing after him while out hunting one time …high tailing it outta there fast he finally made it to a nearby pond and jumped in . Truth be told though I think he bothered the hornets nest a bit before …(unwisely) ☺️and I don’t think he ever did that again .

  • Reply
    Larry Paul Eddings
    August 11, 2021 at 6:46 am

    Yellow jackets sure are mean little nuggets. They can quickly ruin a picnic or a walk in the woods. This year, I’ve only run across one nest and it was near the edge of our yard. I want yo emphasize “was” because I took care of them!

    • Reply
      Margie G
      August 11, 2021 at 8:49 am

      You’ve got wasps or hornets, Miss Cindy. Spray them out at sunset and they will ALL DIE.

    Leave a Reply