Wasp / Yellow Jacket Stings

A yellow jacket sting or wasp sting can be a painful experience, although usually, it is no more that a minor incident and rarely causes a serious, lasting problem.

The exception to this is when a severe allergic wasp sting reaction - or even anaphylactic shock is caused (which is generally rare – anyone aware that they have an allergy to stings should carry an Epipen at all times).

Wasp stings are smooth and more like bumblebee stings, which are also smooth, than honey bee stings, which are barbed. For this reason, in the event of a sting, there is no stinger to remove, as is the case with honey bees.

Yellow jacket stings are also chemically slightly different to those of hornets and bees – that is, they are chemically different for each insect, although venoms for hornet, bee and wasp stings may contain similar protein and enzyme constituents.

Most Risky Time Period

A yellow jacket sting is more likely to occur during the late summer or early autumn, when the nest is getting crowded, and they are eager to feed.

Worker wasps forage for food for developing larvae in the form of other insects and insect grubs.  However, the adult worker wasps cannot eat this diet themselves, and instead, rely on a sweet substance secreted by the young, developing larvae.  

Thus, when all the larvae have developed into adults, the workers must find an alternative source of food.  This is when they become more interested in fruit, drinks, refuse bins and so on.  They are very keen to feed, but in actual fact, the colony is now in demise.

They may sting when they perceive a threat, so it is important to try not to panic around wasps, and avoid waving arms around, since this action can encourage or annoy the wasps.

During the early phase of the colony development, it is believed that stings are less likely to occur - the colony is still growing, there are fewer wasps, and the wasps themselves are focused on establishing the colony.

Repelling wasps

To prevent stings, consider using a deet free repellent.

Deterring aerial-nesting wasps from building a nest

For this you could try using a 'Waspinator'.  I tend to recommend them because they are very easy to use, and act as an actual deterrent (rather than having to deal with the problem once a nest is already in place)

As you can see, they look a bit like a bag, and you may be able to make one, but on the other hand, they are not very expensive, and should last a while.

Read more about how to deter wasps.

The Sting

As with bees, male yellow jackets cannot sting – only females are able to. As well as being used as a weapon against any perceived threat, female wasps use the sting to paralyse prey (aphids, insect larvae), which they will then feed to their own off spring. The sting also doubles up as an ovipositor (egg laying organ).

What Should You Do If You Are Stung By A Wasp (Or A Bee)?

If you are the victim of a yellow jacket sting, read my page about wasp sting treatments, first aid and prevention. This page gives advice for treating yellow jacket stings, with a number of useful tips for preventing them – especially useful if you have young children. However, if you have been stung in a sensitive area such as near to the eye, nostril, in the ear, or in the mouth, go to the hospital immediately.

Another useful page provides detail about anaphylactic shock as well as general bee and wasp sting reactions, which may be similar to bee stings. Although very severe reactions are relatively rare, it is nevertheless a good idea to be aware of the symptoms.

You may also like to take a look at my page about yellow jacket nests , which provides some background information, how to deter wasps from building nests in your garden or home, and how to go about removing a nest.

Finally, yellow jackets / wasps are useful pollinators, and actually very good at helping to control aphids on garden crops. Learn more about them in my page about the wasp life cycle.

You might like these

  • Are Wasps Beneficial?

    If you think wasps are merely nasty, stinging insects, think again! Here are 3 ways in which wasps are beneficial both to people and the ecosystem as a whole.

  • About Wasps

    About wasps: their life cycle, nests, pollination by wasps, and differences between wasps, bees and hornets

  • Do Wasps Pollinate Flowers?

    Do Wasps Pollinate Flowers? A look as some of the evidence for wasp pollination

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Remove wasps without killing them


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